HIGHWAYS England has backtracked on plans to divert traffic several miles during work to replace Hexham’s Bridge End roundabout with an underpass.

The roundabout, on the main route into the town, is part of Highways England’s £30m project to improve the A69 at Hexham and Corbridge.

But residents of Hexham and the surrounding villages were outraged at proposals for traffic flow during the works. The proposals would have seen traffic 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 have had to turn left and travel westbound, before turning around at a new layout at the Acomb junction.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition launched by Hexham councillor Derek Kennedy calling for the project to be scrapped.

However, Highways England has produced a new traffic management plan, and aims to start work in October on a different diversion route.

Traffic will now be diverted around an extended roundabout and turn 170 metres either side of the current roundabout. The extended roundabout is due to be ready in May 2020.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of Tynedale Local Area Council, Highways England’s project manager, Russell McClean, said: “There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

“We’ve been working to perfect the traffic management scheme.

“It’s now a much, much shorter diversion than was previously talked about. 

“We have worked a lot with Northumberland County Council and councillors to make sure there’s a minimal impact during the construction.”

In addition, a reduced speed limit of 30mph and temporary average speed cameras will be in place for the safety of drivers and the workforce while the junction is upgraded.

Highways England hopes this will improve safety at the Hexham west junction, where concerns had been raised about an increased volume of traffic. 

Furthermore, permanent average speed cameras are being installed at two locations along the A69, between Hexham west and Haydon Bridge and between Warwick and Corby Hill, following a safety review.

However, Highways England is yet to find a solution to Styford Roundabout near Corbridge – also due to be removed. 

 Concerns had been raised by residents of Newton and Bywell, due to plans to change junctions along the route which would affect access to their villages.

Mr McClean said: “We were allocated the funding for both schemes. We want both schemes. We still want to build the Styford one, but we have come up against different problems.”

A public information event will be held in September.