Anger over plan to close A1 for works
Residents, businesses and users of the A1 have reacted angrily after it emerged that a four-mile stretch is to be fully closed for at least 17 days.
Highways England plans to close it from south of the Wandylaw junction to just north of Adderstone Services, in both directions, 24 hours a day, next month.
The work will start from 8pm on Friday, March 2. Depending on reasonable weather conditions, it expects to complete the resurfacing by 6am on Monday, March 19.
The authority says that clearly-signed diversions will be in place via the A697 between Morpeth and Berwick with signed diversions also provided for local traffic, adding that the closure is expected to add around 20 minutes to normal journey times.
On Monday, one of the main complaints at a meeting hosted by one of the affected businesses – Purdy Lodge at Adderstone Services – and attended by around 50 people was that nobody had been informed or consulted about it.
The majority of people found out about the works via the statutory notice published in last week’s Northumberland Gazette, but Highways England says that information will be posted to 11,800 residents and businesses in the area in the next week ‘as planned’.
It added that ‘it consulted with Northumberland County Council about this closure and received support for our approach, but we appreciate that it will have an impact on both businesses and residents during this period’.
However, the local authority said that while it was made aware of the agency’s intentions, it ‘strongly advised that, prior to such disruptive works being planned, detailed consultation and engagement with the local community must be undertaken’.
The county council has now formally objected to the planned roadworks, as has MP for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
Coun Glen Sanderson said: “Unfortunately, Highways England has left this essential local consultation activity until the last minute and appears to have already made decisions about the nature and timing of the works without any real consideration of what the impacts on local businesses and residents will be and how they can be avoided or reduced.”
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “I am appalled that this action has been undertaken without the input of the community.
“We want our infrastructure to meet the needs of the community and that is why we won a successful campaign to dual parts of the A1.
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“However, we can’t have a situation where local residents lives are severely affected, and businesses are put under pressure because of a lack of consultation and due process.”
Jim Davidson, whose family runs Adderstone Services, highlighted the businesses the closure will impact, not least his own and its 36 members of staff, but also the likes of the pubs in Warenford and Lucker, the caravan site and various holiday properties. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t have been informed,” he said.
Another woman added: “There’s also things like children going to school in Alnwick and children going to school in Berwick, lots of local people rely on buses. What about farmers trying to get into fields?”
A Highways England boss said that the impact of a full closure has been ‘carefully considered’ and will mean the work gets done much quicker. The type of machine that will be used means that both lanes need to be closed.
David Wheatley, the agency’s head of scheme delivery for Yorkshire & North East, said: “This major reconstruction work will mean better journeys for people on the A1 between Wandylaw and Warenford in Northumberland.
“We do understand the concerns raised, but can reassure everyone we have carefully considered the impact of the closures and that includes avoiding any public and school holidays, and the main tourist season.
“We have to close the road as the whole carriageway, not just the top layer, is extensively damaged and to fix it we are using a special paving machine which takes up more than one lane.
“If we did the repair work overnight, it would take almost three months to complete, but, by closing the road 24 hours a day, we can use day and night shifts to do the work in around two weeks, the shortest time possible.
“We apologise now for any inconvenience caused and are writing to 11,800 residents and businesses in the local area to keep them informed.”
The machine to be used is a cold repaver, which churns up the old surface material, combining it with new material within the body of the machine then laying it back down immediately on the road behind. Larger areas of resurfacing can be done quicker, there is a 60 per cent reduction in the amount of waste and 70 per cent fewer lorry trips.