MORPETH motorists are bracing themselves for weeks of traffic misery as the one-way system starts on Monday.
The temporary restriction is needed because Northumbrian Water must upgrade a 300-metre section of water pipe in Bridge Street as it is in a poor structural condition.
Workers will have to cut the new main within the highway and as a result one lane will be closed.
To keep traffic flowing, vehicles will need to go clockwise along Bridge Street towards the Clock Tower from Telford Bridge, and those coming in from the north will have to turn off to Manchester Street from Newgate Street.
The one-way system also takes in Stanley Terrace and Damside.
Works in Stanley Terrace and the widening of the bus station link road were carried out last month.
Northumberland County Council Network Manager Dick Phillips said: “We advise all drivers to take care while driving through Morpeth.
“We will have messaging signs in place to warn people of the restrictions and we are distributing leaflets to local traders.
“The works should not have an effect on parking. There will be only nine parking places affected on Bridge Street and disabled parking and loading bays remain the same. There will also be more parking available on both sides of Manchester Street.”
He added that the works will take no longer than 10 weeks and if they are not finished by then, they will be stopped and started at another time.
This means they will not hamper any Easter events in the town centre and the Northumbrian Gathering.
The authority is minimising disruption in the long-term by arranging for other schemes to be carried out at the same time.
Northern Gas Networks will replace some old eight-inch metallic mains with more reliable polyethylene pipe in Bridge Street, Market Place West, Market Place, Oldgate and St Bede’s Place.
And contractors on behalf of Dransfield Properties will be putting in the underground cabling for traffic lights at the end of Telford Bridge, which will come into operation in about 18 months’ time with the opening of the new supermarket.
However, county officials say there are no immediate plans to accept calls from the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade for parking charges to be dropped during the disruption to encourage shoppers to continue using the town.
A county council spokeswoman said: “After discussions with members of Morpeth Chamber of Trade we have agreed to monitor traffic flow for the next two to three weeks as the roadworks are carried out.
“If the roadworks are found to be adversely affecting the flow of traffic, we will look at the possibility of providing some free parking in the town.”
A consultation event was held at the Town Hall in December to inform residents and traders about the arrangements.
Morpeth town councillor David Parker said: “The one-way system will present many residents with some difficulties, but town councillors are pleased that the county council has consulted as widely as it has done and taken into account as many views as possible.
“We hope that people will still come into the town centre to shop and use services, however it would be helpful if some residents can find other routes.”
As well as the utility projects, works are being carried out at the supermarket site and on the new Veterinary Centre for Robson and Prescott in Whorral Bank.
Dransfield’s Head of Communications Amanda Holmes thanked the members of the public who contacted the company when a large section of fencing came down during the recent high winds so workers could quickly make the area safe.