The furious leader of Northumberland County Council has demanded that the brakes be slammed on major A69 roadworks after traffic plans were changed without warning at the eleventh hour.
Coun Peter Jackson has written 'as a matter of extreme urgency' to Highways England, who are doing the works at Bridge End roundabout in Hexham, and the Transport Secretary, calling on them to halt work until the traffic management plan is resolved.
The initial plan presented to the local authority last year was to use an elongated roundabout which would allow all current traffic movements to continue and minimise disruption to motorists and the town.
However, the council has in the last week been provided with details of proposals to change fundamentally the traffic management plan which would see the junction ceasing to operate as a roundabout for a year from April 2019, with considerable diversions for traffic to and from Hexham and surrounding communities.
Highways England announced its aim to start work to create a new road under the roundabout earlier this month.
The council is particularly angry as there has been no public consultation or engagement with businesses or the local community about these revised proposals.
In its letter to Highways England the council asks that:
* All work on the current traffic management proposals stop with immediate effect.
* The original proposals to carry out these works using the elongated roundabout traffic management approach are re-instated.
* Full and proper consultation and engagement with local stakeholders takes place before any works proposals are agreed and taken forward.
* Following the public consultation and engagement further detailed discussions are undertaken with the county council to agree the way forward.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “I’ve written to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling as soon as I heard of this plan from Highways England, which will have serious consequences for Hexham and the surrounding areas.
“I officially requested to Highways England that it ceases all work on traffic management proposals with immediate effect. We’re taking this extremely seriously and have taken it to the highest levels in expectation of a swift resolution.”
Local councillors in the area have also voiced their concerns.
Councillor Cath Homer for Hexham East said: “I’m calling for work to stop immediately while we get into a meaningful dialogue with Highways England. These proposals unnecessarily and severely restrict traffic in and out of Hexham and this will cause major inconvenience for residents and will be very bad for Hexham businesses.
Trevor Cessford for Hexham Central and Acomb added: “I’m really concerned we have not been fully consulted on these proposals and I ask that Highways England come to the table urgently. The implications for residents in Acomb have not been thought through with people having to go via Corbridge to get to Hexham, or further west, effectively cutting Acomb off from Hexham and causing major safety concerns on the A69.”
Nick Oliver for Corbridge said: “This has really serious implications for the businesses based around Egger and for traffic and safety in the narrow streets of Corbridge as people are forced to find alternative routes.”