A controversial resurfacing scheme which would have led to the closure of part of the A1 for more than a fortnight has been postponed, following a passionate public meeting today.
The roadworks were due to start next Friday, with the four-mile stretch between Warenford to Wandylaw shut in both directions for 17 days. The proposed scheme had sparked an outcry from the public.
However, at the end of today's public meeting, Highways England made a U-turn - announcing that the work will no longer take place this March and will instead be rescheduled, for a date yet to be decided.
The decision was taken after officials heard from disgruntled members of the public and councillors during the public meeting, held at The Blue Bell Hotel, in Belford. Concerns included access for people in medical emergencies, the impact on local roads which were to be used for diversions and closing the road completely. The lack of consultation about the roadworks was also criticised.
David Wheatley, head of scheme delivery for Highways England (Yorkshire and North East), said: "Following today's meeting we have decided to reschedule the work on the A1 between Wandylaw and Warenford that was due to start on Friday, March 2. We will be going away to review the comments we have received today. We may need to carry out some maintenance throughout the year on this section to ensure the road surface remains in a safe and suitable condition. Further details will be released in due course."
The delay will allow Highways England to look more closely at people's concerns and how best to alleviate them. Mr Wheatley said that the next potential window for the work to take place was October. Highways England had said a total closure would be quicker and cheaper than alternatives.
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who organised the meeting after the community had raised major concerns about the roadworks, welcomed the decision to postpone the scheme. She said: "I am reassured that Highways England have done what I hoped they would do and they have listened to the community. Postponing these works will give the necessary time to think properly about how to do these works."
The postponement was also backed by Northumberland County Council Leader Peter Jackson. The authority had formally objected to the roadworks, calling for the repairs to be halted until ‘proper consultation’ had taken place with the local community.
Coun Jackson said: "The comments made by the members of the public echoed the concerns of the county council. We were worried about the lack of consultation and also the impact these roadworks would have on people's day-to-day lives. I am pleased that Highways England has seen sense and I would urge Highways England to work with us more closely so that we can make sure that any future roadworks have a much more limited impact on local communities in Northumberland."
Reflecting on Highways England's decision to postpone the roadworks, county councillor Guy Renner-Thompson, ward member for Bamburgh, added: "This is what we have been calling for since day one. It is a fantastic result and it shows what people power can do."