Public outcry after death leads to calls to make district's roads safer
Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater has vowed to explore ways to make the district’s roads safer after a public outcry in the wake of the tragic death of a 69-year-old woman.
The woman, who has not been named, was struck and killed by a Seat Leon car on White Lee Road, Heckmondwike, at 7.50pm on Wednesday night last week (July 21).
The woman, who regularly walks her dog around the local area, was hit by the car as she crossed the road. Neighbours rushed to help but they were unable to save her and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
A man aged 29 was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. He has been released on bail pending further enquiries.
The tragedy touched many people across North Kirklees as concerns were raised about speeding cars and nuisance drivers plaguing communities across the district.
A hastily-arranged protest was held the following night outside the main gates at Wilton Park in Batley
Around 25 people attended to show the strength of feeling about what is seen to be growing “lawlessness” on the roads.
Many people have expressed concerns over the dangers posed by speeding drivers; the number of high-powered super cars easily available for hire to young drivers; and the nuisance caused by souped-up cars with loud exhausts which tear around the streets on a night.
Ms Leadbeater received a flood of emails after last Wednesday’s tragedy and called a private meeting with some of those people at Batley Bulldogs’ Mount Pleasant stadium on Monday night.
Emotions were said to be running high among people who attended.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy Ms Leadbeater said “totally unacceptable” levels of speeding was one of the main issues reported to her on the doorsteps during the by-election campaign.
She pledged to “do everything I can” to help tackle the issue.
After Monday night’s meeting Ms Leadbeater issued a statement which said: “The tragic incident on White Lee Road has shocked the whole community.
“While it would be wrong to comment while a police investigation is ongoing, there is no doubt about the strength of feeling about the issue of safety on our roads more widely.
“I’ve met with a number of local residents and I’m convinced that only a co-ordinated approach can help tackle the problem. That involves the police, the council, the mayor’s office but also all of us as members of the community.
“I plan to bring together all those who can be part of the solution in the next few weeks to see what positive steps we can take immediately as well as developing a long-term plan to make our streets safer.”
Paul Halloran, who stood as an independent in the 2019 General Election in Batley and Spen, summed up public anger, describing the woman’s death as “utterly avoidable”.
He added: “The very few people who are in positions of authority to deal with such matters are culpable. They have refused to deal with the elephant in the room.”
Mr Halloran said the tragedy happened outside the home of his son, Elliot, 29, who was one of the first on the scene.
Elliot, his girlfriend Ellie Wilkinson and a neighbour administered CPR and tried to help as best they could. Elliot and Ellie were both left distressed by the experience and have since spoken on Facebook of their anger and frustration.
The couple posted a video clip of a car overtaking dangerously at speed on the exact spot where the woman died six days earlier.
This week Mr Halloran wrote to Chief Insp Alan Travis, of Kirklees Police, asking for a meeting. He called for changes in the law to help the police deal with a “crime epidemic on our roads and streets”.
He said “weak-willed laws” had led to “politically correct policing”. He said he backed rank-and-file officers but laws meant they were unable to do the job the public wanted from them.
He added: “Local tensions are now rising to a frightening level. People have quite simply had enough.”
After the meeting outside Batley Park, another local meeting has been called, this time by residents in Healey with similar fears about speeding drivers.
A group called Reclaim Our Area’s Roads (ROAR) will hold a meeting at Healey Community Centre on Saturday, July 31 at 6pm.