MORPETH is facing a traffic nightmare with plans for a one-way system in the town centre for six weeks.
The temporary restriction will be imposed as Northumbrian Water needs to upgrade a 300m section of water pipe in Bridge Street.
Northumberland County Council accepts that there will be disruption, but the authority is trying to minimise it in the long-term by arranging for other works in the area to be carried out at the same time.
Northern Gas Networks will replace ageing metal gas mains with more reliable plastic pipe and Dransfield Properties will be signalising the junction by St George’s United Reformed Church, which is among the schemes linked with its supermarket development in Low Stanners.
During the one-way period, 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.
County Council Network Manager for Highways and Neighbourhood Services Dick Phillips told members of Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee that the works would take place some time between January and March 2012 as it would cause fewer problems than at other times of the year.
“Obviously this is going to have a major impact on Morpeth residents and the people who work in the town,” he said.
“Knowing that the Northumbrian Water works have to take place, we think that co-ordinating them with other works at the same time is the best way to handle the situation.
“During the works, the companies will be clearly told what they can and can’t do.”
Coun David Parker asked if there could be notices put next to the A1 and other major roads on the approach to Morpeth during this time to inform drivers about the disruption.
But Mr Phillips said the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade would complain if the signs were erected.
Coun Parker responded: “The Chamber can be unrealistic about the number of vehicles it thinks stops in Morpeth, as a significant number, about 20 per cent, travel through the town centre to go elsewhere.
“This is why the county council is progressing plans for a bypass to the north of the town.”
Chamber Chairman John Beynon said he hopes that the group will be fully consulted about the works and their consequences.
He said: “It’s better to have the disruption in January and February rather than November and December, but with the economy still in a fragile state any works on this scale will have a negative impact on the town centre.
“The last time there were major works on Bridge Street and Newgate Street, which took place about 15 years ago, Northumbrian Water consulted with us in a very detailed way and we worked with it to make sure there was the least disruption possible. I hope the same courtesy will be given to us this time.
“Putting signs up on the major roads could stop people coming into Morpeth to shop, so before making comments like he has done, Coun Parker should first discuss the issue with the relevant people.”
Meetings will take place over the coming weeks between the companies and the authority to arrange a schedule.
A Northumbrian Water spokeswoman said: “We are carrying out essential work to upgrade the water main on Bridge Street.
“We appreciate that work of this nature does cause disruption and we are working with the county council and other utilities to reduce this.
“We will ensure that we keep residents and local businesses fully informed.”
The gas scheme will see around 600m of old eight inch metallic mains replaced with 180mm polyethylene pipe in Bridge Street, Market Place West, Market Place, Oldgate and St Bedes Place.
A spokeswoman for Northern Gas Networks said: “We are working closely with Northumberland County Council to minimise disruption by co-ordinating our work with projects in the same area by the local authority and Northumbrian Water.”
A spokeswoman for Dransfield Properties said: “We will be working with all the relevant parties to ensure a co-ordinated approach and minimise disruption.”