WORK on a new £1.8m roundabout which it is hoped will cut congestion and improve road safety on the busy A167 will begin next week (Tuesday, February 24).

While the bulk of the work at the junction of the A167 and B6300, near the Honest Lawyer Hotel, south of Durham City, will not get under way until the summer, trees and vegetation will be cleared from Tuesday.

That work is starting this early to avoid the bird nesting season.

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The main phase of the project will begin in June and is due to be completed by early next year.

Durham County Council said the work had been scheduled in order to reduce disruption to motorists and because the drier weather should make the earth-moving operation more straightforward.

Motorists have complained about the junction for several years, with lorry drivers heading south from Meadowfield Industrial Estate in particular finding it difficult to turn right onto the A167 using the current T-junction.

Adrian White, the council’s head of transport, said: “We are aware that some motorists avoid the junction due to a difficulty in pulling out into the traffic, while others are tempted to perform a U-turn onto the busy A167, which has obvious safety implications.

“The junction improvement, which is due to be completed by January 2015, is the latest in a programme of works to improve the efficiency and safety of our road network targeted at areas which will assist the economic regeneration of the county.”

Councillor Neil Foster, the council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We’re delighted that these works are now about to start and look forward to delivering a significant improvement to a junction which has caused difficulty for motorists for many years.

“The improved access to Meadowfield will no doubt assist existing businesses and help to convince others that this remains an attractive area for investment.”

A council spokesman said it would be making every effort to keep delays to a minimum during the scheme but some disruption should be expected due to the scale of the works.

In 2012, about 20,000 vehicles a day used the A167 at that point.