The closure of a slip road north of Morpeth onto the A1 and continued works next to a petrol station and shops have come in for criticism.
When the new junction to link the Morpeth Northern Bypass to one of the main routes through Northumberland was completed, a decision was taken to close off the previous road connections northbound and southbound at Fairmoor.
In addition, temporary traffic lights are still in place next to the shops and training centre complex owned by Penny Petroleum to enable the installation of utilities into the adjacent Persimmon housing site.
Penny Petroleum group general manager Keith Jewers told the Herald yesterday that there are a number of issues which have affected the businesses at Fairmoor, but the support of customers and the wide range of items and services available has meant the impact has not been too severe.
He said: “The road was always a slightly complicated one-way slip road as anyone going south had to go back to the A697 to head south again, however we have lost the ‘roadside’ presence and have been denied signs on the new revised road layout.
“It has been disappointing that even though we have had to endure being cut off from passing traffic, we are still experiencing roadworks with traffic lights and single lanes outside the premises today – it’s rubbing salt into the wound.
“Nonetheless, the location offers all fuel grades, and we believe that the extent of our grocery section and the award-winning Penny Black off licence are still attracting our regular local customers, albeit we have lost direct passing trade. We will monitor the impact closely.
“The equine and country store and Sue Ross’ quilt shop and training centre similarly continue as normal.
“Everyone within Penny Petroleum are really grateful for our customers’ continued support and appreciation of the diversity of what we offer.
“It has allowed us to continue with business as normal and maintain most importantly, the level of employment.
“We are a local company, employing local people offering a fantastic service 24 hours a day.”
Morpeth resident Neil Wilkinson said: “The closure of this slip road is causing unnecessary confusion and extra traffic problems – it’s utter madness.
“Drivers for the A697 now have to go on the A1 then onto the turn off just a few hundred yards later, whereas previously they could stay in the left hand lane.
“This makes it very difficult for drivers if the A1 road is busy.
“The communication of this should have been a lot better. We witnessed an ambulance with blue lights flashing heading past the Fairmoor garage only to realise that they couldn’t get to the A1, so they had to turn around and have to negotiate the Northern bypass roundabouts to get on the road.
“I can’t think of a good reason why it has been closed off and I hope that the new administration at County Hall will look to restore the junction as soon as possible.”
A county council spokesman said: “We understand this has been a difficult and disruptive time for residents and businesses and thank them for their patience and co-operation during the construction of what is a very important link road for the area.
“The matter of introducing signage for Penny Petroleum has been raised with Highways England – the agency that controls the trunk road – and we are awaiting a decision from them.
“The current traffic lights at Fairmoor are there to enable the installation of utilities into the adjacent Persimmon housing site.
“This work is separate to any Morpeth Bypass work and we hope that disruption can be kept to a minimum for businesses and residents in the Fairmoor area.
“While we appreciate it takes some time to get used to a new road layout, the previous layout for the slip roads on the northbound carriageway did not meet current highways design standards and it was therefore necessary to amend this as part of the new works for the junction of the bypass to the A1.
“The new road layout provides the appropriate distance between the slip road, joining the A1 from the bypass and the slip road from the A1 to the A697.
“It gives drivers much more time to merge and diverge, has been designed to improve road safety and conforms to national design standards.”