Councillor claims Blyth 'back to square one' on relief road

Consultations and talks have been held in the past over a new Blyth Relief Road.Consultations and talks have been held in the past over a new Blyth Relief Road.
Consultations and talks have been held in the past over a new Blyth Relief Road.
Council leaders have insisted they remain committed to the long-awaited Blyth relief road after questions were raised over the scheme’s progress.

Northumberland Labour accused Northumberland County Council of wasting time and money, with five years having passed since the previous administration conducted a feasibility study into the progress.

The council has been aware of the issue for several years, with more than 20,000 vehicles a day using the two main routes into Blyth, causing significant congestion at peak times.

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Three weeks after being highlighted on the front page of the News Post Leader, the issue was raised at last week’s extraordinary full council meeting, with leader Coun Glen Sanderson reiterating support for the plan.

Speaking to Coun Sanderson at the meeting, Coun Anna Watson, who represents Blyth’s Isabella ward, said: “I’ve lived in Blyth my whole life, I’ve heard about a relief road nearly all my years and I’m 46 this year.

“As he will know, it was the Labour-led council that invested in consultation and route identification. With so many roadworks happening in Blyth, which are compounding the problems of getting and out of the town, can he explain what is planned on this urgently needed transport link?

“When will we get this relief road we were promised by the local MP and the Conservatives on their manifesto?”

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Responding, Coun Sanderson berated Labour for voting against the council’s budget, but agreed a relief road was necessary.

He said: “The capital programme, which you didn’t agree to, is clear that there is going to be around £18m devoted to the Blyth Relief Road.

"There is a report coming to cabinet which will lay out in more detail the plans for how we’re going to begin this important project.

“I agree that the road into Blyth needs to change – we do need to find a better route in and our commitment is there.”

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Coun Sanderson added that he would work with Blyth councillors on the project. He said the council would fund £3m of the £18m project with the rest of the money coming from central Government.

But speaking after the meeting, Coun Watson said the town was back to square one.

She said: “Under the Labour-led administration a feasibility study looked at preferred routes for a third road into and out of Blyth.

"£18m was allocated in the capital programme for the chosen route.

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“Persimmon has now built houses on that route so the people of Blyth are back to square one.

"The council needs more money from central Government and are starting again with route identification. I can’t understand why Route 3 was not secured as it made the most sense.

“Many people avoid Blyth because of the inability to get in and out of the town easily which is why Labour invested five years ago and Tory dither and delay have now left Blyth in the worst position ever.”

Her concerns were echoed by Northumberland Labour leader Coun Scott Dickinson, who branded the situation a shambles.

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He said: “This road is badly needed and this was recognised by the then Labour-led council.

“Once again the council has ridden roughshod over the plans and the people of Blyth and allowed a house building programme to go ahead where there should have been a relief road.

“There is a lack of commitment to and interest in South East Northumberland investment in infrastructure, while developments have run rife and the disinterested Tories have promised but failed to keep up with the investment in infrastructure to make Blyth more appealing to visit, shop and live.”

A report concerning the future of the Blyth Relief Road is expected to be brought before cabinet on Tuesday, April 12.