PLANS to close part of the main road in a Northumberland village have been met with panic from local business owners.

Karbon Homes has requested permission from Northumberland County Council to close a section of the B6320 in Bellingham for several weeks from the end of April. The closure would allow contractors working on Karbon’s new 63-home housing estate to connect the sewage system to the mains.

However, concerns have been raised by Bellingham Golf Club and the Fountain Cottage Tea Rooms, with fears the work and the closure could have a serious impact on the two businesses.

The closure would be in place from April 29 until May 27, which villagers have pointed out is the start of the busy tourism season.

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Bellingham Golf Club chairman Graham Wilson feared the closure could spell the end for the long-established club after a difficult winter due to poor weather.

He said: “Over 80 per cent of our members will be affected. We strongly object to the plans.

“We rely on visitors from May until the end of October and if they see this closure in place they will look elsewhere. It’s a 20-mile round trip to go from the village.

“We appreciate that the work needs to be done. However, the timing of this work is totally wrong. The houses aren’t even going to be up for sale until 2025.

“We just can’t afford this to happen. We have been about for 150 years and this could be the end.

“We have had a poor winter and we’re not having a good start to the season because of the weather. If the golf club goes, that is it gone, it’s another sporting facility in the Tynedale area that has disappeared – but we will do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Michael Hudson, the owner of Fountain Cottage Tea Rooms, also urged the developers to move the work to later in the year. The planned work itself would take place just outside the café, where customers often sit outside during the summer in large numbers.

Mr Hudson said: “We’re probably going to have the biggest impact because the road closure is outside the front of our business. It will completely block our business off.

“This is the busiest time for the tea room where we take most of our money. They’re going to be opening up the road to connect the sewers – we can sit 60 people out the front, but people aren’t going to be sitting out at the front when there’s big heavy machinery digging up the road and opening up sewers.

“We have survived the pandemic, the financial crisis and now this road closure feels like round three. It’s just crazy, this wouldn’t happen in larger towns.
“Realistically, if it was a bit later in the year it would still impact us but we have a bigger chance to take more money in May. As soon as we open up the outdoor seating we get much more money in.

“The profits from the summer keep the business afloat in the winter. If go ten or twenty thousand pounds short, we just don’t know where we will make that up.”

At a meeting of Bellingham Parish Council on Wednesday, villagers packed out the meeting room and demanded the closure be halted. Concerns were also raised about the detour that would need to be taken by the emergency services to reach houses in the village.

Responding to the concerns raised in Bellingham, Karbon Homes said it will be meeting the parish council next week to discuss the matter.

Director of development and regeneration Sarah Robson said: “We understand that the closure of any road is far from ideal, however to carry out the work that is needed to the sewage system, the short-term closure of this section of Bellingham High Street is necessary.

“We’ve tried to avoid the peak summer period, to minimise the impact of the closure, but apologies in advance for any inconvenience this work does cause. We are hoping to meet with Bellingham Parish Council in the coming week to discuss the concerns raised.

“We will do everything we can to facilitate access to local businesses through the closure period.”

However, Northumberland County Council has now said it will not be granting the road closure from April 29.

Cllr John Riddle, Cabinet Member for Improving our Roads and Highways, and the local councillor for the area, said: “I fully share the concerns of the local community over the impact the proposed works being carried out by a developer would cause – including access routes for the emergency services, farmers and local businesses.

“As things stand, residents face the village being cut in half and the potential for a long detour and we are in talks with the developers to see how the works can be amended to reduce the requirement for a road closure. As things stand, we will not grant the road closure order that was due to start on 29th April, to allow more time for these discussions to take place.

“We have also asked the developer to undertake liaison with the local community as a matter of urgency in order to try and mitigate as far as is possible any impacts associated with their planned works.”