A long-awaited, £30m road scheme – which will tackle traffic congestion problems in a Northumberland market town – has reached a significant milestone.
The Planning Inspectorate has announced it is to carry out a detailed examination of the proposal to build a northern bypass for Morpeth, where traffic hold-ups have been a controversial issue in recent years.
The examination and determination process, which will take about 11 months to complete, will culminate in a decision on the scheme by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.
The project aims to reduce through traffic in Morpeth by between 15% and 20%, and complete a major new road link between the A1 and communities in the urban south east of the county.
The first section of the route was created by the construction of the Pegswood bypass, which opened in 2007, and the northern bypass will complete the link from the Whorral Bank roundabout near Morpeth to the A1.
The bypass has been welcomed by community leaders in Morpeth, where there has been major controversy over congestion, delays and rat-runs since the introduction of new traffic lights in the town centre last year.
The Department for Transport is providing £21m of the cost of the scheme, with the rest coming from the county council.
The Planning Inspectorate has now officially started the pre-examination phase on the county council’s draft development consent order (DCO), which was submitted last month. The examination process itself, which starts in December and runs until November next year, involves creating a single order granting all the necessary consents for the bypass, including planning approval, compulsory purchase and traffic orders.
If the DCO is approved, building work could begin on the bypass in spring 2015, with the scheme being completed by autumn 2016.
Yesterday Scott Dickinson, the county council’s business chairman, said:”This is a key milestone in building this much-needed and long-awaited bypass, providing a key link between the A1 and Ashington, reducing through traffic in Morpeth and creating development opportunities to the north of the town.
“The £30m project will also create jobs and training opportunities for local people and provide opportunities for local suppliers during the construction phase.
“All in all it’s good news for Northumberland, and we’re looking forward to a positive response from the Secretary of State in 15 months’ time.”
Following the Secretary of State’s decision, expected in November next year, there will be a two-month period to allow any legal challenges, before full approval is sought in 2015.
Public consultations on the scheme started more than five years ago, and included a series of exhibitions.