COMPULSORY purchase powers are being sought by council bosses to ensure a £30m road project in Northumberland is not held up by land acquisition problems.
The proposed Morpeth Northern Bypass aims to reduce congestion in the market town and complete a major new road link between the A1 and communities in the urban south east of the county.
Next week county councillors are expected to approve an application to the Government for a development consent order (DCO) for the scheme – including the legal power to acquire the land needed to build it.
A report to the executive says the powers will ensure that no landowner can effectively “hold the council to ransom” by unreasonably delaying the sale of the required land.
Council officials stress that compulsory purchase is only a “back-up” option, and it is hoped land acquisition for the new road will happen through negotiation.
The authority is currently carrying out a final round of public consultation on the scheme prior to applying for the DCO, which would grant planning permission for the bypass.
Transport experts say it would reduce through traffic in Morpeth by between 15% to 20%, and help open up key housing development sites to the north of the town.
It would also complete a new strategic link between the A1 and Ashington, the first section of which was the Pegswood bypass, which opened in 2007.
Last year the Department of Transport approved £21m funding for the project, with the council providing the rest.
It is hoped that construction will start in 2014 with completion by winter 2015.
The report to the executive, by senior estates officer John Price, says negotiations are taking place with owners on acquiring land for the scheme. The landowners have agreed to the sales in principle, but terms have not yet been finalised.
Mr Price says to guarantee that the land is available and accessible when required for the scheme, compulsory purchase powers should be sought.
He says the council’s capital strategy group requested written assurance in August that “no landowner would be able to effectively hold the council to ransom on the value of the land by unreasonably delaying the sale of the required land”.