Campaigners and residents have been calling for the scheme for decades in order to ease congestion for traffic going in and out of the town.
Northumberland County Council’s Conservative administration have repeatedly stated they are committed to the project, with funding set aside in the recent budget.
However, at Monday’s meeting of the council’s Corporate Services and Economic Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee, members were told that the preferred route selected two years ago was no longer an option. In 2019, residents were consulted on five potential routes for the relief road, with option three proving the most popular.
The route would have connected the A189 at Shankhouse to the A193 at the Broadway Circle. However, as the route passed through the ongoing housing development at Crofton Grange by Persimmon Homes and Wimpey, council officers have now deemed the route unfeasible after work progressed on the site.
Instead, the council are proposing the realignment and dualling of the existing A1061 Laverock Hall Road, providing a direct dual carriageway connection between the A192 Three Horse Shoes Roundabout and the A193 South Beach. In addition, a new “complementary link” is also proposed between Chase Farm Drive and Ogle Drive, allowing for congestion relief along Cowpen Road.
At the meeting, Rick O’Farrell – the council’s interim executive director, admitted: “Route five isn’t as good as route three would have been, but it is still the best option and it will have the benefits we are looking for.”
He added that it “very quickly became clear” there were serious problems with the route three option, but the main issue was Persimmon’s progress with the housing development.
Coun Alex Wallace, who represents the Sleekburn ward, said: “Route five is nowhere near as good as route three. It is absolutely diabolical.”
It comes after Northumberland Labour criticised the council for a lack of progress on the road, and claimed the people of Blyth had been brought back to square one.
Despite the issues, Coun Wojciech Ploszaj, cabinet member for business, insisted the administration remained committed to the project – but warned its completion would hinge on a successful bid for funding from central Government.
He said: “I’m sure that the administration is committed to delivering this project. We can’t guarantee it because there are some factors that are not dependant on the council.
“We are dependant on Government funding. We have a strong commitment from us to delivering on time by 2026. It is not as good as route three but it is what it is and we are where we are. There will be no other option in the future with the current developments.”
The report is due to be considered by cabinet this week. If approved, residents will be consulted on whether route five is an acceptable option before detailed design work is carried out.