ANOTHER milestone has been reached in the process to build the Morpeth Northern Bypass, but community leaders are disappointed that the timetable has slipped.
The £30million project, which is also known as the South East Northumberland Link Road, has been put forward for consideration by the Government.
Now the Planning Inspectorate has announced that the draft Development Consent Order, which would grant all permission needed for the work, has been accepted for examination by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
The announcement kicks off a 15-month process whereby planning approval, compulsory purchase and traffic orders will all be considered, with a decision due in autumn 2014.
If approved, construction would begin in spring 2015 and the bypass would be completed by autumn 2016.
The Department for Transport will fund £21million of the work, with Northumberland County Council, which is leading the project, paying around £9million.
Council Business Chairman Scott Dickinson said: “This is a key milestone in building this much-needed and awaited bypass, providing a key link between the A1 and Ashington, reducing traffic in Morpeth and creating development opportunities to the north of Morpeth.
“The £30million project will also create jobs and training opportunities for the people of Northumberland and provide opportunities for local suppliers during the construction phase.”
Town and parish councils have welcomed the progress, but are concerned that the road will not be completed sooner.
Morpeth town councillor David Parker said: “The timetable has slipped undoubtedly. Originally it was hoped that it would certainly be completed in 2015 and obviously that isn’t going to happen now.
“An awful lot hinges on this bypass, it is not just a new road, which is important in terms of the economic vitality of the area, but it also has a bearing on housing development to the north of Morpeth.
“There is progress being made and that is good, but it is a pity that it is taking so long.”
Pegswood Parish Council Chairman Peter Stonell said: “I think the timetable has slipped a year, which is disappointing because the money has been committed. The sooner the bypass is in the better, not only for Pegswood, but for the whole of south east Northumberland.”
Hebron parish councillor Andrew Kelly added: “We were hoping they would make a start on construction next year.
“We think this bypass is going to be beneficial for south east Northumberland. It will take a lot of traffic away from Morpeth town centre, it should improve access to south east Northumberland and hopefully it will reduce the traffic going through Hebron.
“We would like to see the programme accelerated if at all possible.”