TOWN traders are furious after discovering out of the blue that a one-way system of traffic will be in place from Monday.
The restriction is required in the centre of Morpeth so Northumberland County Council can carry out major footpath improvement works, which will take about 12 weeks.
Vehicles coming into the town from the south will have to turn right at Telford Bridge as the westbound lane on Bridge Street will be closed.
In response to the situation, shop owners and a group of county councillors are urging the authority’s administration to take measures to help alleviate the effects of the disruption.
A more extensive one-way route was needed in the town centre for 10 weeks in 2012 so essential utility works could take place.
John Beynon of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade said no-one from the organisation knew about the upcoming works until signs were put up on Bridge Street last Thursday.
He added: “We’re very annoyed that there has been no consultation whatsoever about the one-way system.
“We understand that the footpath works do have to be carried out, but it would have been courteous for the county council to inform us and all the traders in Morpeth months in advance like it did last time.
“Times are still tough for our independent businesses and the disruption to traffic will have a big impact.
“We hope that free parking can now be brought in earlier than April to help put a positive spin on the situation.”
Abbie Watt, co-owner of the Carlo’s fish and chip shop in Newmarket, said: “This time of year is difficult enough for businesses without having to deal with a one-way system as well. We can’t believe that the county council has dropped this on us only a week before it is put in place as we don’t have much time to prepare for the disruption. It should bring in free parking now to help shops attract customers during this period.”
Once vehicles have turned right at Telford Bridge onto Damside, the rest of the one-way route is as follows: turn left onto Stanley Terrace, follow the road until Wellway then left onto Manchester Street, then left or right onto Newgate Street.
Traffic coming from the north will be as normal as it can go down Bridge Street.
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative group on the county council, said: “I can see no reason whatsoever for the lack of warning given to traders and local residents.
“The administration should now bring in free parking to mitigate the disruption and provide business rates relief across Morpeth town centre.”
The call was also made by Morpeth North member David Bawn at a north area committee meeting on Monday and Longhorsley ward member Glen Sanderson said no work should take place until there has been proper consultation with traders in the town so they can have an input into what takes place.
Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “The path works have needed to be done for some time now and after the floods the pavement has lifted.
“Morpeth Town Council asked us for these works to be done and an increased number of trips and falls have been reported. They involve two gangs working six days per week and they will be working on shop entrances in the evening after they have closed to minimise disruption to residents and businesses.
“Our network manager is speaking to the town council and also to businesses on Monday. We will monitor the works at all times and if possible take the one-way system off when is safe to do so.”
Coun Ken Brown, chair of the town council’s planning and transport committee, said: “The reason for the works is a positive one, but we have a number of questions about it and we would rather have had the opportunity to ask them before the signs went up on Bridge Street.”