AFTER a fierce backlash from the public, transport chiefs are going back to the drawing board with plans to divert traffic on the A69.

The news was revealed by Northumberland County Council’s director of local services and housing, Paul Jones, who insisted Highways England’s controversial proposals to send vehicles to turning points at Acomb and Corbridge instead of turning right on the Bridge End roundabout at Hexham, would be revised.

Mr Jones was speaking at Tuesday’s Tynedale Local Area Council meeting, reporting on a crunch meeting between the county council and Highways England earlier that day.

The planned diversions would be in place for up to a year while works on the roundabout were completed, but Mr Jones said officials at Highways England were to come back with new proposals by the end of next week.

Mr Jones said: “The existing plans as they stand are not going forward. They will look to avoid that diversion for as long as possible in its works programme.

“You can never tell what road users will do when there’s a change of this magnitude over this period of time.

“It’s a positive response from Highways England, but the proof is in the pudding and we still need to see what they come back with.

“The government has a road investment strategy and this scheme is part of a congestion fund solely to tackle congestion. This wouldn’t be our priority if we had £30m to spend, but that’s not the situation.”

On learning of Highways England’s decision to introduce the new diversion plans, Northumberland County Council urgently demanded all works stopped until a meeting between the organisations took place.

Cath Homer, ward councillor for Hexham East, said the work at Hexham, part of a £30m scheme which included a flyover at Styford roundabout at Corbridge, was necessary for future road improvement work on the A69.

Speaking at Monday’s Hexham Town Council meeting, she said: “If our long-term goal is dualling of the A69 further west, this work needs to be done to pave the way for that work.

“The proposals to divert at Acomb and Corbridge came as a shock as there had been no consultation and we were all concerned about how that would impact on Hexham.”

Tynedale’s largest employer Egger, based in Hexham, also raised concerns about the negative effects the diversions would have on its business. Tobias Zimmerman, plant director of production and technical, said: “We would have concerns over any proposed diversions and the associated traffic flow plans put in place during the upgrading construction work that would create significant negative impacts to our business.”

Highways England confirmed that revised proposals were being considered to minimise disruption.