CONCERNS have been raised by Northumberland County Council about a new proposal for traffic flow planned during major works to a roundabout in Hexham.

Highways England is planning to prevent vehicles turning right at the roundabout for a year from April while work is carried on the structure, meaning motorists could face lengthy extensions to their journeys.

Those travelling from the west and wishing to enter Hexham would have to pass Bridge End and do a 360 degree turn at Styford roundabout, at Corbridge, before travelling back up to Bridge End and turning left into the town. Those exiting Hexham and travelling towards Newcastle would have to turn left on the westbound carriage of the A69 before turning round at Acomb.

Northumberland County Council has written to Highways England calling on it to stop work on the A69 Bridge End roundabout until the traffic management plan is resolved.

The council claim the initial plan presented from Highways England 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 new plan, revealed to councillors on Thursday, was a fundamental change to the traffic management plan which would see the junction ceasing to function as a roundabout for a year, with considerable diversions for traffic to and from Hexham and surrounding communities.

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 local authority has asked 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.

Tynedale's county councillors have already voiced their concerns.

Hexham East ward member Cath Homer 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, said: "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.”

Corbridge councillor Nick Oliver 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.”

County council leader Peter Jackson, who represents Ponteland South with Heddon, said: “I wrote 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.”

A spokesperson for Highways England said:

“We are disappointed by the comments made by Northumberland County Council about our traffic management plans for Bridge End. For the last five months, we have been in discussions with the council regarding the temporary measures we intend to put in place while we construct the improvements.

“The original plan was to elongate the roundabout, however, further detailed designs revealed there wouldn’t be sufficient working areas at locations within the site and there would also be increased risks for road users and workers.

“The alternative plans, using the Acomb and Corbridge junctions as turning points, mitigate safety risks and reduce the work by two months, reducing disruption for residents and businesses.

“We were made aware that Northumberland County Council had some concerns about these plans this week and we are in the process of replying to them formally so we can work together to find a way forward. Once the plans have been agreed we still fully intend to inform residents, businesses and stakeholders.”