A County Durham community is petitioning for a re-think of controversial proposals for “half a bypass” it fears will simply shunt traffic congestion from one village onto another.
West Auckland Parish Council and Durham County Councillor, Rob Yorke, are demanding wider public consultation on plans being progressed for the Toft Hill bypass, approved last month by Durham County Council’s Tory-led Coalition administration.
There is concern the scheme in its current form omits any mention of the completion of the West Auckland bypass, with councillors concerned that by solving one issue in Toft Hill, the new road will create greater problem in West Auckland.
The Parish Council and Cllr Yorke have secured over 800 signatures for a petition calling for full public consultation to decide the best route for a bypass that would also serve the villages of Toft Hill, Spring Gardens and West Auckland.
The petition will be handed in to Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, who made the bypass an election campaign pledge in 2019, and Durham County Council.
Cllr Yorke has been a vocal opponent of the bypass, tabling a motion at Full Council calling for a more holistic approach to the project, benefitting all the local communities rather than just one.
He said: “I welcome a solution addressing all of our communities’ issues with traffic, but this project in its current form is not it. It’s a half-baked idea that would deliver half a bypass creating more problems than it solves.
“It’s imperative that the local MP and Durham County Council’s Tory-led Coalition administration listen to the opinions and concerns of people living in and around West Auckland and St Helen Auckland because the proposals as they appear at the moment, would simply shift all of the traffic currently travelling through Toft Hill to West Auckland and St Helen Auckland.”
Parish Council Chair, George Smith said: “The petition is off to a flying start, we’ve raced to 800 signatories from across the village and surrounding communities. Residents have been really keen to sign up, with 98% of them backing the petition, so far.
“Parish Councillors, residents, County Councillors and friends have all pitched in to gather the signatures and raised awareness of the issue in the community. We are enormously grateful to everyone for all their hard work, but we won’t stop until we have knocked on every door and we plan two more ‘petition days’ to complete the job.”