Vital road repairs are ‘needed now’

COUNCILLORS have called for urgent repairs to be carried to a road on the edge of Morpeth that has been affected by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in recent months.

And the authorities in Stannington, Mitford and Morpeth have also said that a system agreed for transport movements as part of the amended conditions for the Well Hill opencast mine should not be used by other companies.

Hargreaves Production Surface Mining already had consent to extract 130,000 tonnes of coal. It then applied to Northumberland County Council for the alterations because it discovered that 160,000 tonnes of fireclay and 30,000 tonnes of glacial clay at the site are of a sufficient quality for commercial use.

The extra work will increase lorry movements at the site from 20 a day over six days, to 44 a day between Monday and Friday.

They previously just went through Glororum so to mitigate the impact, a one-way system for HGVs has been agreed and the route has been drawn up to minimise the number of right turns. It covers the A197 through Clifton and Loansdean, the Whalton road turn off, Tranwell and then Glororum after visiting the site to get back to the A1.

Stannington Parish Council objected to the firm’s application for coal extraction but it did not oppose the variation of conditions as it was concerned that if the bid was turned down, all HGV movements would go through Glororum.

Speaking at a meeting of the county council’s planning and environment committee, which approved the application, Stannington chair Karen Carins said: “Approvals for housing at St Mary’s Hospital and open casting at Well Hill, combined with local traffic and that from the Whitehouse Farm visitor attraction, have meant that roads approaching and through Glororum have been overwhelmed and are often dangerous.

“The verges have been over-run and the edges have disintegrated very badly. The road was deemed unsuitable when there was opencasting 20 years ago and there was far less traffic. What has changed? It’s vital that a pre and post development road survey is undertaken and repairs are carried out before any increase in fully laden lorries is approved.”

Speaking for Morpeth Town Council, David Parker said that having viewed the state of the Glororum road, the authority is minded to agree to the A197 being used for Hargreaves vehicles only, provided that they are unladen, do not travel in convoys, only operate from Monday to Friday, the usual wheel washing requirements are adhered to, the procedure is regularly monitored, any dirt on the road is regularly removed and damage to the road is made good when required.

He added that members have concerns about their use between 7am and 9am in the morning and 4pm to 6pm in the evening, but Jim Long from county highways said that although the other points were covered in the conditions, the HGV timings would not change.

Mike Sharp, chair of Mitford Parish Council, said: “We accept the proposed circular route, but this arrangement should not be extended to any other party.”