Green light for £21m bypass scheme

A MAJOR Morpeth road scheme has been given the go-ahead with the promise of more than £21million of Government funding.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced yesterday that the Morpeth Northern Bypass project had been accepted by the Government after going through a stringent value-for-money assessment.

The news means that the scheme, which will connect the A197 Whorral Bank roundabout with the A1 south of Fairmoor, will receive £21.1million from the Department for Transport.

The funding amounts to 70 per cent of the total £30.1million cost of the project, with the remainder to be provided by Northumberland County Council.

Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “The Government’s decision to part-fund the link road is very good news indeed for both Northumberland residents and the business community.

“Our officers have worked very hard on putting together this successful bid.

“It means work can now begin on an important strategic route that will reduce traffic levels in Morpeth and provide an alternative for through-journeys.

“There will be wider economic benefits also as businesses have access to improved transport links.”

Proposals for the road have been developed since the completion of the Pegswood Bypass in 2007 and a ‘best and final’ bid for Government funding was made by the county council in September after the authority agreed to fund part of the costs from its £42million budget for major projects.

Estimates from traffic modelling suggest that the bypass would reduce traffic in Morpeth town centre by 22 per cent, and it is also planned for the road to unlock potential development sites for housing and businesses to the north of the town.

It will provide a link to the A1 for businesses in Ashington and South East Northumberland, which is hoped will boost the local housing market and improve the prospects for economic recovery and private sector housing investment.

A public exhibition of the plans at Morpeth Town Hall last year was met with a largely positive response, and councils in Morpeth, Pegswood and Hebron have welcomed the scheme.

Morpeth town councillor David Parker said: “It is crucial that the road goes in,

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both in terms of the advantage to South East Northumberland and transport and also because it opens up the north part of the town to housing and other development, which strategically is the best placed area for that.

“In view of the pressure at the minute from a considerable number of planning applications coming in, it is good to know that area can be opened up and housing development can take place there.

“For congestion, it will be an obvious benefit to the town centre and Cottingwood Lane.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith has been pressing the Government to approve the plans.

He said: “This is an issue on which I have had several discussions with Ministers and I am delighted with this decision, which will be excellent news for the North East’s economy.”

Sir Alan added that the scheme will boost the area’s appeal to industry at a time when he is discussing the county council’s growth strategy for the Local Enterprise Partnership with officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East has also hailed the announcement, along with news that funding has been approved for a new bridge crossing over the Wear at Sunderland.

Director Stephen Larkin said: “Infrastructure is key to the economic growth of the North East so to have a total of more than £100m of funding approved for these two projects is excellent news.

“The Morpeth Northern Bypass will open up South East Northumberland from the A1, while the new bridge will prove a major boost to connectivity within Sunderland.

“It is very exciting to see such a boost for the Northumberland and Wearside areas and to have this funding in place is a great step forward for these strategically important projects.”

The scheme was among 21 projects accepted nationwide, in addition to 20 others that were announced in the Autumn Statement last month.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “Almost all journeys begin and end on local authority networks, which provide the crucial links that allow people and businesses to prosper.

“We are investing in schemes that will provide better access to jobs and services, reduce congestion and enable more goods to move more easily around our country.”