Bypass faces funding battle

THE inclusion of the Morpeth Northern Bypass on a Government list has been welcomed by Northumberland County Council.

But its £35million scheme to ease traffic congestion in the town will face a funding battle with similar projects across the country.

It was originally put into a ‘pre-qualification group’ by the Government last year and now it has made it onto a ‘development pool’ list, the next stage of the process, along with 22 other schemes.

However, the Department for Transport says it hopes to fund the majority, but not all, of these projects because the likely demand for funding is about £950million and only £630million is available.

The bypass would start from the Whorral Bank roundabout on the A197 and head westward, connecting to the A192 at Lane End. It would continue south west until it intersects with the A1, where a separated junction, St Leonard’s, would be constructed west of Lancaster Park.

Executive Member for Highways and Transport Alan Armstrong said: “We are delighted that the scheme has been moved up from the ‘pre-qualification pool’ to the ‘development pool’, which means it will be considered for funding with a decision expected later this year.

“We know that the process for funding the scheme will be competitive as there are 22 other schemes in the development pool, but the fact that the Department for Transport has said it hopes to fund the majority of these schemes is encouraging and we will be looking at our business case again to see how it can be further strengthened.

“This bypass will form an integral part of Morpeth’s transport network and help the regeneration of the town by supporting local business development, and it will create improved routes to tourist destinations throughout Northumberland.

“The delivery of the bypass will also help to unlock key housing and employment sites in north Morpeth and improve the regeneration potential of Ashington and other former coalfield communities.”

Traffic in Morpeth is estimated to rise by 20 per cent over the next 20 years, bringing with it increased noise, pollution and delay.

The county council says traffic modelling has projected that if constructed, the bypass would bring about an immediate 22 per cent reduction in traffic volumes on the A192 in Bridge Street.

To prevent any potential increased risk of flooding, the bypass design would incorporate current sustainable drainage techniques where water would be collected from the road surface and carried to new storage ponds via grassed channels.

The proposed wetland areas would encourage the development of natural habitats and have enough capacity to store additional water during heavy storms.