Roadworks U-turn

CAMPAIGNERS have forced a rethink on a roadworks plan for the A697, following concerns from businesses that it would seriously impact trade.

Following pressure to Northumberland County Council from county councillors and Sir Alan Beith MP, part of the work will now be carried out at night instead of during the day.

However, the victory has caused a political stir, with both the Conservative group and the Liberal Democrats claiming credit.

The Lib Dems had said that Sir Alan had secured an agreement from the county council that the roadwork plans would be adapted after contacting officers and members of the county council.

But the Conservative group said that it was Conservative county councillors who had forced the re-think.

Coun Anthony Murray, whose Wooler ward incorporates a large section of the A697, welcomed the decision.

He said: “We must keep trade moving through rural Northumberland throughout the summer and I am working closely with council officers to find a solution. I am pleased that the road will now remain open during the day, but am yet to be convinced that the work is sufficiently urgent to make a delay until autumn or early winter impractical.

“Under the original schedule for the works, signs would have been erected at Cornhill and the point at which the A697 splits from the A1, diverting traffic onto the A1. This would have effectively closed the A697 and cost local businesses passing trade for a week during the tourism high season.

“The proprietor of the café in Milfield contacted me concerned that this could be disastrous for turnover.”

Sir Alan Beith had also been contacted about the potential impact of daytime roadworks on the road.

“I am very pleased that the council has seen sense and made changes to the planned works. The passing traffic on the A697 is the lifeblood of many of the businesses which provide services to motorists and tourists,” he said.

“The work will now be carried out at night instead of during the day, and I have been assured that work will be completed by the start of the English school holidays, when many people travel.

“However, it seems that there was a lack of consultation on this plan and I am particularly concerned that no-one seems to have taken account of the different dates of the Scottish school holidays, and I will continue to investigate this point.”

He added: “My main concern now is that matrix signs at Cornhill and Morpeth indicate the road is still open. It appears we will only need a diversion for HGVs onto the A1 between July 18 and 22.

“It’s vital for local businesses that drivers know they can still use the A697.”

Repairs will be carried out at Heighley Gate, north of Morpeth, until July 15, which will be controlled by traffic lights and without closing the road.

Resurfacing at Ilderton, south of Wooler, will be carried out at night between July 14 and 19, with controls for noise disturbance.

The works at Wellhope will now take place at night between July 18 and 22, with a local diversion through Rothbury.