MP Dehenna Davison has launched a petition calling for a town bypass to be put back into the planning blueprint for County Durham.

Durham County Council wanted the option of building an eastern relief road for Barnard Castle included in the County Durham Plan, which will set out a range of development proposals and planning policies for the county until 2035.

Officers identified a ‘corridor of interest’ for the road’s location, connecting the A688 and A67 with Westwick Road to allow vehicles to cross the River Tees using Abbey Bridge and then join the A66 eastbound.

They felt the route would address public concerns about safety and amenity and, along with a ban on vehicles over 18 tonnes travelling through Barnard Castle, protect the historic fabric of the town centre.

But Planning Inspector William Fieldhouse said the route, and two Durham City relief roads, should be dropped as they would not be consistent with national policy, justified or effective.

With public consultation on the plan, now without the bypass proposals, due to conclude on July 21, the Bishop Auckland MP has started an online petition.

Whilst some businesspeople fear the loss of the through-traffic, Ms Davison said she has heard from Durham County Councillor Richard Bell, residents and businesspeople who back it.

In the first four days, it had been signed by 178 people.

The Northern Echo:

She said: “Although it has been only six months since I was lucky enough to be elected, I am very much aware that these issues have been highlighted for a number of years by groups such as the HGV action group Teesdale Area Action Partnership.

“I have spoken with a number of constituents who have informed me about the traffic and how it can become particularly bad when the A66 is closed.

“We've seen an increase in the number of HGVs passing through Barnard Castle.

“Not only does this increase noise and pollution in the town, there are concerns about pedestrian safety, and about the damage caused to the heritage of the town. For example, the Grade I listed building Market Cross is regularly damaged by HGVs using the roundabout.

“Barnard Castle is a tourist destination and HGVs affect that.

"This is a proposal that is supported by the town council, the County Council, HGV action group, Teesdale Area Action Partnership in favour, and other cross-party groups.

“To simply do nothing isn’t a solution.”

She said people can sign the petition at to demonstrate the strength of feeling from the community, and she will submit it along with her comment to the consultation.