PROPOSALS to put a congestion-busting road in picturesque Durham countryside would be like "taking a sledgehammer to a nut," a politician has claimed.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael believes that levels of congestion in Durham City do not justify building the "relief road" on its outskirts.

Although no decision has been made, Durham County Council is examining the pros and cons of building a road from the A690, in the east of the city, past Crook Hall, the medieval manor house, to a point near County Hall.

It has won Government funding to look at a congestion-easing scheme that could also include a second toll road for the city.

Mr Carmichael met the Save Our Valley campaign group, that is opposed to the scheme, and said afterwards: "There is nothing innovative about building a road in a place like this.

"In terms of how much congestion the City of Durham has, it would be taking a sledge hammer to a nut.

"The Government should be looking at much more flexible ways of solving congestion problems. People won't leave their cars unless there are more options."

Liberal Democrat councillor Carol Woods, Durham City Council cabinet member for the environment and leisure, said: "There are much more sustainable options to solving the congestion problems than building more roads, including an integrated transport system.

"If all employers in Durham City bought into that, there wouldn't be a congestion problem.

"There need to be more options available to car users.''

Save Our Valley founder and owner of Crook Hall, Keith Bell, said: "It is a beautiful part of the city, and it is a lovely quiet valley. We need to keep it that way.''

Durham County Council leader Albert Nugent said the council was assessing the city's traffic needs up to 2020.

"A detailed traffic survey has recently been undertaken, and a comprehensive traffic model is being developed which will examine and evaluate several different packages of measures to deal with future traffic issues.

"These measures include a possible extension of the park-and-ride scheme, a possible extension of the charging scheme and a thorough evaluation of the benefits that any relief road could bring to the city centre."