CHANGES are proposed at a busy road junction which has earned a reputation as an accident blackspot.

Plans have been lodged for the construction of a roundabout to replace the existing road lay-out at a junction on the A690 Durham to Sunderland dual carriageway, outside the Reg Vardy garage, at Stoneygate, near Houghton-le-Spring.

Engineers believe the proposed roundabout, costing £750,000, would reduce the risk of accidents for cars crossing or merging on to the dual carriageway.

The existing staggered junction links small feeder roads to and from nearby villages of Newbottle and Burdon with the A690.

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said the proposals were drawn up purely on safety grounds.

"In the past three years there have been 14 accidents in total, four of them serious, including one fatal," he said.

"Going further back, over the past ten years, there have been 43 accidents, 12 of them serious and three fatal."

In a move to curb speeds on that stretch of the A690, a 50-miles per hour limit was imposed from the A19 interchange at Middle Herrington to beyond the Stoneygate junction.

As part of the city council's plans a new filter lane would merge on to the A690 from High Lane, the feeder road from Newbottle.

Copies of the application and proposals are available for inspection at the development and regeneration department of Sunderland Civic Centre during normal office hours.

The public must lodge any comments and/or objections to the proposals, quoting application number 03/00076/ LAP, with the Chief Development Control Officer, PO Box 102, at the Civic Centre, Sunderland, by February 9.