Pressure causes roadworks U-turn

COUNCIL bosses have had a re-think on roadworks after pressure from politicians.

Concerns were raised about plans to carry out highways improvements on the A697 during the day over fears it could harm local businesses in the busy tourist season and cause inconvenience for residents.

However, following a busy weekend of calls and emails from local councillors and MP Sir Alan Beith, Northumberland County Council has adapted the plans to take account of the impact.

Sir Alan said: “I am very pleased that the council has seen sense and made changes to the planned works. The passing traffic on the A697 is the lifeblood of many of the businesses which provide services to motorists and tourists.

“The work will now be carried out at night instead of during the day, and I have been assured that work will be completed by the start of the English school holidays, when many people travel.

“However, it seems that there was a lack of consultation on this plan and I am particularly concerned that no one seems to have taken account of the different dates of the Scottish school holidays, and I will continue to investigate this point.”

Sir Alan is urging the council to carry out an impact assessment for tourism and business before starting any future roadworks.

Coun Glen Sanderson, who represents Chevington with Longhorsley, said: “The issue is that there has not been any consultation of any real depth with the local members who have their ears to the ground.

“Very many residents got in touch with their councillors and as a result we sent a number of emails to the county council over the weekend to say a re-think was essential.

“To its credit, we had a meeting on Monday and there has been a compromise.

“Councillors were left out of the loop and it is regrettable that an error was made. Hopefully, the county council can learn from this and consult local members at an early planning stage in the future.”

The council will carry out repairs on a 1,350m stretch of road around Heighley Gate until July 15, controlled by traffic lights and without closing the road.

Resurfacing at Ilderton, south of Wooler, will take place at night between July 14 and 19, with controls for noise disturbance.

And the work at Wellhope will be done at night between July 18 and 22, with a local diversion through Rothbury.

A council spokeswoman said: “Following some concerns about the forthcoming road closures on the A697, Northumberland County Council has issued an update on these planned highways improvements.

“The council is carefully taking into consideration the impact that these works will have on both local businesses and residents.

“The council will ensure that careful consideration is given to the road signage that will be used to advise motorists of road closures and diversions during these schemes and will also ensure that clear advice and communications are delivered via its website.”