ORGANISERS of one of the region’s most popular events fear traffic chaos after it was announced that one of two main roads into it would not be fixed for another six months.
Organisers of the Northumberland County Show say they have been told by county hall bosses that officials will not be spending any of a £3.7m Government hand out on making sure a much-needed access road is repaired in time for the May event.
The road between Stocksfield Station and Bywell has been closed after a landslip which took out one side of the road over Christmas, and on January 9 the road failed completely.
Since then county planners have made clear the B6309 will not be reopened until July at the earliest. The refusal to speed up work means that organisers will have to bring in almost all of its 25,000 expected visitors via the A69 on the north of the Tyne rather than also use the A695 south of the river.
The county show opens for the first time at its new location on Lord Allendale’s grounds at Bywell in May, though other roads will provide access.
Show Secretary Gaynor Scandle said: “We wanted this to be perfect, so we are obviously very disappointed with this decision.
“There will be around 25,000 people making their way here, and while we have other roads it is not ideal to have one of the main routes left in this state.
“We have been told the money will be spent in Rothbury, that there will be no work here in time for the show. It’s not the end of the world but it’s our first time at the new site and this is not the ideal situation.”
The Northumberland County Show moves to Bywell this year after 66 years at its old site in Corbridge. As one of the region’s biggest annual events it is thought to be worth more than £1m to the regional economy.
Show organisers have been backed by Hexham MP Guy Opperman, but last night Liberal Democrat council leader Jeff Reid said claims the full £3.7m Government hand-out would be spent mostly in Rothbury were “wide of the mark.”
He said: “We have got this money but we have no idea of the real problems facing the road in Stocksfield, we don’t know the cost and we don’t know the amount of time it will take to fix.
“We can’t just say: ‘Here is £1m, it will be ready in time’. The road has collapsed, we might even have to re-route it. For people to come along and say we are not supporting the county show is incredible.
“We just cannot say when a road this badly damaged will be fixed without doing further engineering work, that’s just how the world works.” In a sign of an increasingly difficult relationship between the Conservative MP and the council leader, Mr Reid added: “If Guy Opperman had lived here for more than five minutes he would have a better understanding of the issues we face.
“He doesn’t know the facts but he is prepared to spout off about things and that doesn’t help.”
Mr Opperman last night said people would be amazed that the council had not prioritised the show and questioned why the authority was not setting out openly where the Government funding would be spent.
He said: “Surely the county show is your number one priority? It is hugely important to the local economy and to our tourism industry and the failure to look after this road is shocking, and to leave it in this state could have a detrimental effect on the show and local businesses.
“This is endemic of the council’s approach to fixing roads in Tynedale. As usual we are at the back of the queue.”