Tower to remain closed as gas repair work continues

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Work to repair a major gas leak in Alnwick town centre is to continue for another week.

Emergency response engineers from Northern Gas Networks began ‘essential’ repairs beside the Bondgate Tower on Thursday afternoon and the road through the arch was closed.

Two businesses on the street were closed ‘for a few hours’ as a precaution.

Once the current work is completed, further repairs will need to be done.

Workmen at the site told business owners and Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Carlo Biagioni that pipes needed to be repaired ‘as far as Narrowgate’.

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “We have been in contact with Northern Gas Networks and are aware of the problems with the condition of the existing pipes.

“The company is working on a plan for repairs, but if the planned works take place this year, people can be reassured they would happen outside the busy summer period.”

Any non-essential repairs will take place in full consultation with the authority to minimise disruption.

A spokeswoman for Northern Gas Networks said they ‘are working hard to return the road to normal as quickly as possible’.

“Further investigative work is being carried out on site, and a safe ventilation process is currently underway to remove the escaped gas from the ground.

The original estimate from Northumberland County Council was that the road could remain closed over the Easter weekend, but work looks set to push on for another few days or even weeks.

Northern Gas Networks said it was hard to give a fixed completion date as the escaped gas needed to settle before workmen could close up the site and reopen the road.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Carlo Biagioni, who is also owner of Carlo’s fish and chip shop, said: “The timing is so bad, we’re going into the busiest period for Alnwick but if it’s a dangerous pipe, safety first.”

“Some businesses have said they haven’t seen a difference in trade, but we rely on that road being open and we lost out on passing trade.

“I think, with the work on the A1, there’s diversions everywhere.

“Tourists said they haven’t been diverted properly so a lot of them have got confused. The town has been affected by all of this.”

Meanwhile, restaurants like the Art House, which is directly adjacent to the works, benefitted from the walking trade. Staff told the Gazette that the business had done better than they expected for the whole Easter period.

Other traders commented that because there was less traffic on Bondgate Within, more people were walking the whole stretch of the road.

Disruption has not ended for this part of town as workmen have said that pipes would need to be replaced as far as Narrowgate.

Carlo said: “They actually contacted the highways department and their recommendation is to renew the pipes from the tower all the way down.”

The Northern Gas Networks spokeswoman said: “The stretch of metallic pipe running along Bondgate will eventually be replaced with plastic pipe as part of Northern Gas Networks’ ongoing development of infrastructure across the North of England. However, a time frame has not yet been agreed for this project.”

Denny Ingram, network officer for Northern Gas Networks, said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused while we carry out this essential work.

“We will continue to keep customers and stakeholders informed throughout.

“If you smell gas you should call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 immediately.

“Your call will be answered at any time of day or night and an engineer will be sent out to assess the situation promptly.”