RESIDENTS in Darlington have been warned to expect major disruption as work continues on a £12.5m road.

John Johnson, project manager for the Eastern Transport Corridor, told a meeting of Darlington Borough Council's Transport Forum: "It's not going to be easy."

Work began last month to create a 1.8-mile link from Haughton Road to the A66, with a cycleway and footpath.

But the real upheaval is not expected to start until the next few months.

"All that's happened so far is site clearance and trees being cut down," said Mr Johnson.

"There's not a lot happening at the moment, but major earth works will start in two months time.

"You won't see much going on in the next few months because it will be a period of activity for the water and gas companies.

"There are some very big utility diversions to do. We have to get that out the way before we do the serious earth works.

"The junction at Haughton Road is going to be a major problem.

"It's going to give us a lot of trouble and we're working with the contractor to try to work out how to cause the minimal possible disruption in that area.

"At this stage we can say it's not going to be easy."

Mr Johnson added that a protected species of newt has been found at the project site.

The discovery means that contractors will not be able to start digging until the newts are fished out and moved to a safe pond.

"I must say, the very rare great crested newt has been on every road job I have ever worked on," said Mr Johnson, a former project manager at Gateshead Council.

"They are present around this road, particularly around the Haughton Road area.

"There's a huge area of the site where we can't start work until the newts have been trapped and put into a secure pen.

"We can't do any serious work in that area until all the trapping has been done."

The work is expected to be finished by April or May next year.

Councillor Nick Wallis, chairman of the Transport Forum, told the meeting: "For all the talk of newts and utilities, we are very much on program with this project, and that is good news."