Delay on Blyth Relief Road planning application sparks fears for project's future

Residents take a look at the Blyth relief road proposals
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)


The submission of a planning application for the long-awaited Blyth Relief Road has been delayed until the end of the year.

Northumberland County Council is "refreshing" its outline business case for the project following feedback from the Department for Transport earlier this year. The DfT is required to approve the business case and grant funding for the project.

The refresh means that a "revised programme" for the project is currently being developed. It is hoped a planning application can be submitted by the end of the year.

At March's meeting of the county council, cabinet member for business Wojciech Ploszaj said the project remained "on track" and that the council hoped to submit a planning application in April. However, this did not happen.

The proposed scheme involves the construction of a new dual carriageway and road widening of the existing single carriageway to dual carriageway along the length of the A1061. In addition, it is proposed to construct a new single carriageway link between Chase Farm Drive and Ogle Drive.

It is hoped this will reduce local congestion, reduce car and bus journey times, offer greater walking and cycling opportunities and support opportunities for future growth in Blyth. However, the DfT has requested updated traffic modelling following the coronavirus crisis.

The refreshed business case will also reflect on the consultation programme held last autumn and provide more detail on how it links with other schemes in the area, such as the Northumberland Line and new cycle corridors.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council's deputy leader Coun Richard Wearmouth said: "There's nothing complicated about it - why would you apply for permission for something that hasn't been approved yet?

"There are a few things that have enforced the changes. We need to look at the impact of Covid on traffic flows."

Coun Wearmouth, who is also the chairman of Northumberland Conservatives, added that he was "confident" the Tories would complete the project if elected next month.

He continued: "All I would say is it is for every political party to say which projects they are committed to. For us that is easy, we will do what we have said we will do - others may have different priorities."

Coun Jeff Reid, who represents the Blyth Plessey ward and is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, had similar concerns.

He said: "I'm not surprised it has been put back. These things are always far more complicated than just drawing a line on a map.

"My worry now is whether it will get kicked into the long grass. Whether it will survive the general election or not, I don't know - but Blyth needs a relief road."

It is understood that, if elected, Labour will consider infrastructure projects on a case-by-case basis. However, former Wansbeck MP and Labour's candidate for the Ashington and Blyth constituency Ian Lavery vowed to fight for the plans.

He told the LDRS: "Everyone knows the importance of the Blyth Relief Road to residents, business and visitors of the town. The project will remain a central plank of my vision for the future redevelopment of the area."

The project was name-checked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Conservative Party Conference in October. The relief road was included on a list of projects that would receive funding after the controversial scrapping of the £36bn northern leg of HS2.

The council has also confirmed that controversial plans to close a Cramlington slip road as part of the project will now not go ahead. Part of the scheme’s public consultation last autumn included a proposal to close the southbound slip road onto the A189 known as Shankhouse.

However, there were significant concerns raised about this proposal due to the importance of this access to the A189, particularly for residents living west of the main road. Further assessments by the council has concluded that the slip road should remain open in future plans, and the new business case will now include its retention in submissions to the DfT.

Cramlington North councillor Wayne Daley, who campaigned against the plan, described the changes as "great news".