THERE are fears Hexham will grind to a halt following new plans to divert traffic on the A69.

Northumberland County Council has formally written to Highways England asking it to stop work on the Bridge End roundabout at Hexham after the agency unveiled controversial new plans for traffic flow for up to a year while work is carried out.

Bridge End is subject to a new scheme under Highways England’s £30m project to improve the A69 at Hexham and Corbridge.

The proposals for traffic flow at Hexham would see people entering the town from the west continue their journey to Styford roundabout at Corbridge before double backing and turning left at Bridge End – an extra 12-mile round trip. For those leaving the town at the roundabout but wanting to travel eastbound, traffic would turn left and travel westbound before turning around at a new layout at the Acomb junction.

The council’s leader Peter Jackson, and councillors Cath Homer (Hexham East), Trevor Cessford (Hexham Central with Acomb) and Nick Oliver (Corbridge) have also made public their concerns. The council has urged the agency to return to original plans for an elongated roundabout during the works. Coun. 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.”

The county councillor for Hexham West, Coun. Derek Kennedy, has called on Highways England to pull the plug completely on the £30m scheme.

While he agreed improvement work was required on the A69, he argued that the money would be spent better elsewhere on the road.

He said: “We need improvements to the A69 and the £30m should be spent on improvements at the Hexham West/Warden junction or Acomb junction, or further dualling in the west. The underpass will provide no real benefit and is a waste of money.

“The proposed diversions will cause enormous problems for Hexham residents and traders.”

Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman has also waded into the argument, saying he has spoken to the project manager to arrange a meeting with the council.

He said: “I now hope a solution can swiftly be agreed so this important upgrade can go ahead safely, but with minimum disruption to residents, businesses and visitors to Hexham.”

A spokeswoman for Highways England confirmed the changes and said it was disappointed with the council’s reaction.

She said: “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.”