Cumbria County Council is investing more than £800,000 to improve a key route in the east of the county.
From Tuesday September 1, teams will be carrying out a major resurfacing project on the A686 at Meathaw Hill near Alston.
The works will take approximately five weeks to complete (weather permitting) and require a full road closure for the duration of the works.
A signed diversion route will be in place, with access maintained for residents, businesses, emergency vehicles and school buses.
The resurfacing works follow a recent drainage improvement project and continues the council’s investment in to this key route, which will provide the communities in and around Alston with an improved and safer driving surface.
The resurfacing work will cover a 4km section of the A686 from the junction of the C3039 (Leadgate) to the junction of the A689 (Brampton) adjacent to the war memorial.
Local access from Alston to Leadgate will be maintained until the last stage of the work, and we will inform the community when that junction will be closed via local social media channels.
Some weekend working has been agreed with the contractor to increase productivity and they will also try to maximise the quantity of material laid per day – to allow works to be completed as quickly as possible.
Cllr Claire Driver, Cumbria County Councillor for Alston and East Fellside, said: “I welcome this next stage of investment into our road network and although it will cause some disruption, the improvements will undoubtedly be appreciated in the long run.
“By working together with the local community, we will ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum and that businesses in Alston are actively promoted as remaining open to visitors.”
Whilst the resurfacing crews are in the Alston area they will also carry out work to the top of Front Street (above the co-op) replacing the patches of cobbles and tarmac with a full tarmac surface, to make the road safe for the winter months and improve the look of the surface.
This is only a temporary solution whilst the county council continues to source funding for a second phase of reinstating the cobbles.
This work will require a road closure which is expected to last for approximately five days. Further information on this work will be shared in due course.
Dave Liquorice, Save Alston Front Street, said: “It’s great to see things visibly progressing on the Front Street cobbles. The recently installed test panel gives a good preview of what is planned to be installed next year.
“The removal of the upper section cobbles and replacement with temporary tarmac is disappointing but we have to be pragmatic. Even if funding to get the whole of Front Street reinstated was found now any actual reinstatement work is not likely to happen until 2022.
“That messy patch work of cobbles and tarmac probably wouldn’t last two more winters. Tarmac is not what we want but will improve the look of the town especially after the new cobbles have been laid near the Market Cross and the other tidying up work has been completed.”
The barriers around the trial panel section of cobbles where the council is testing out various laying patterns will be removed on 21 August once the bonding material has had chance to cure successfully.
Ian Grey, Chair of Alston Moor Business Association, said: “We’re delighted that Cumbria County Council have an ambition to fully reinstate the cobbles from the bottom to the top of Front Street.
“In the short-term we accept that the temporary tarmac will be a safety and visual improvement for our community and visitors while funding is sought to restore the cobbles, which are a key part of our heritage that help to make Alston a unique place to live in and to visit.
“We will work alongside the Council to ensure that while Front Street is closed for this work, visitors are still encouraged to come to Alston, aided by clear signage and other communications”.
Members of the public are invited to attend a virtual drop-in session with representatives from the Front Street project steering group and county council officers to find out more about the project and answer any questions on the trial panel on 7 September between 1-2pm and 6-8pm.
Joining details for the meeting will be shared in due course.