TRADERS have labelled plans which could force lorries down a narrow road as an accident waiting to happen.

Businesspeople on Hexham’s Market Street have been angered about Northumberland County Council’s proposal to impose a length restriction on vehicles using nearby Hallstile Bank, because it would result in more lorries and coaches trying to negotiate their street instead.

Market Street already poses problems for motorists, particularly near the top of the road where it narrows into a single lane between two shops.

And traders said the problems would only get worse when more of the heavy vehicles used it.

The county council announced last week it would roll out the restriction on Hallstile Bank before the end of the year, claiming a trial closure earlier in the year had proved successful.

However, Mary Richard, of Gaia, said: “I will never forget during the trial when a bus and lorry met each other and both were just sat there, and nobody could move.

“We have been here for 24 years and it’s amazing to me there has been nobody seriously hurt or killed. But I think an accident is waiting to happen when the restriction is in place. It’s concerning because, for a start, it will disrupt our business, but there’s the noise levels and we feel it’s dangerous.”

Jo Foster, of Dillies, said: “There won’t be the same quantity as there was when Hallstile Bank was closed to all vehicles, so it could have been worse.

“We get lorries and big buses using the street at the same time, and that will get worse. If the council was to close Hallstile Bank completely, then that would be a big concern.”

There were fears from some traders, however, that Hallstile Bank could be closed for good and the Market Place pedestrianised after the county council looked at the option of banning all vehicles from Hexham Town Centre.

Gail List, of Petals, said she believed the length restriction was the first step to rolling out the pedestrianisation scheme – and that would the death knell for Hexham.

She said: “The last thing Hexham needs is pedestrianisation and none of the traders want it. As has been the case in other market towns in Northumberland, it kills towns overnight.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said no concerns about the diversions had been raised during the trial closure of Hallstile Bank.

He said: “We continue to work with Hexham Town Council on potential improvements to the Market Place, and these will be consulted on in due course.

“During the trial closure of Hallstile Bank earlier this year, HGVs used Market Street and there were no issues identified. As with all changes to traffic management, we will continue to monitor its impact.”