The roadworks
The roadworks

CONTROVERSIAL town centre roadworks taking place during Barnard Castle’s peak tourist season are costing taxpayers £90,000.

The work, which is being carried out by Durham County Council, will reduce the road width in Horsemarket to stop vehicles parking on zigzag lines adjacent to a pedestrian crossing. The council says it will also reduce the waiting time for traffic at the crossing, improve the flow of traffic and shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross.

But county highways chiefs are again under fire after the cost of the project was revealed. They say the original estimate was £79,706, but the scope of the surfacing works has been increased and the project will cost nearer to £89,000.

Resident Colin Bunn said: “It’s hard to avoid the comparison of the town trying to scrimp and save £30,000 in donations to keep The Witham open – and the council spending £90,000 making the road four feet narrower. It’s an unbelievable waste of taxpayers’ money.”

There have been two-way lights during the works, which are scheduled to run until September 14. Parking bays have also been lost and the scheme has often led to backed up traffic.

Some businesses say trade has been disrupted in their busiest season.

In an email sent to county councillor Richard Bell, county highways officers said: “It was anticipated that delivering the project during the school holidays would result in reduced vehicle movements particularly the school run however Barnard Castle is a busy market town.”

They said that when the project started last month it was “hampered by inconsiderate parking, delivery vehicles and narrow road widths” but that chiefs have been working around these “frustrations”.

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The project is part of a wider road safety scheme in the town that has also involved 20mph zones being imposed.

A spokesman for Durham County Council said: “We are implementing a series of measures on the A67 between the town and Bowes, using funding of more than £500,000 from the Department for Transport.

Local authorities covering the country's 50 highest risk road sections – identified by the Road Safety Foundation following a study of casualty rates and traffic volumes – were invited to bid for money from the fund.

“We were invited to apply for the stretch of A67 between Bowes and Barnard Castle, on which there were three serious accident casualties in the period looked at.”

Dave Wafer, our strategic traffic manager, added: “The works at Horsemarket are an important part of the improvements we are delivering on the A67 between Bowes and Barnard Castle which will make the road safer for all who use it.

"By narrowing the crossing, it will be quicker, easier and safer for people to get from one side of the road to the other.

He said that the council tries to minimise disruption and avoid busy times for roadworks but this is not always possible when delivering a high number of schemes across the county.

He thanked people for their patience.