War of words erupts over key village issues

A former fire chief has slammed a county councillor for taking an ‘irresponsible approach to public safety’ and accused him of causing ‘panic’ following a landslip.

Rothbury resident Brian Hesler has criticised Liberal Democrat county councillor Steven Bridgett, claiming he supported a permanent one-way system in the village.

He has also hit out at Coun Bridgett for circulating comments from engineers following the landslide on the road to Weldon Bridge.

But Coun Bridgett has said that while he investigated the longer-term option of a one-way system, he never pushed for it, and has defended his handling of the B6344 landslip.

Mr Hesler, who was Chief Fire Officer in Northumberland for six years, said: “The one-way system in Rothbury is a danger to public safety.

“Fire appliances and ambulances approaching the village from Garleigh Bank or the hospital can be delayed – exacerbated by the fact that some of our Retained Firefighters are held up simply trying to reach the station when turning out.

“Parking is affected, meaning vulnerable people are finding it more difficult to visit the surgery or the chemists.

“Incredibly, our county councillor has been pushing to make this system permanent, which shows his lack of understanding of the issues.”

On the landslide, Mr Hesler, who has been selected to be the Conservative candidate for the Rothbury division, said: “Coun Bridgett widely circulated an email that included a worst-case-scenario initial assessment from an engineer of the scale of the damage.

“A number of residents have spoken to me about the uncertainty and panic that this has caused.

“Keeping residents informed is paramount, but the responsible approach would have been to get the full facts and update people in a measured way.”

But Coun Bridgett hit back. He said: “As highways officers at County Hall can confirm, all options were discussed regarding how the road should be after bridge works were complete. It was agreed by all, including myself, that the road would return to its original setup more than six months ago.

“I have also managed to secure £80,000 to have Bridge Street, Haw Hill and Church Street completely resurfaced.

“I regularly update residents on various issues, the latest being the landslip. I feel it is important to make sure that all residents are in possession of the full facts relating to its current position – good or bad – and not what we want or think they should have.

“All of the correspondence I have received back so far from residents has stated they are thankful for the candid up-front nature of the information I have provided.”

He accused the Conservatives of attempting to turn the run-up to an election into a game of ‘he said, she said’ and didn’t want to be drawn into ‘petty squabbling’, adding: “It would be more beneficial to residents if the Conservatives worked with us to tackle the problems we are facing.”