Plans to build a new road linking the A1 with south east Northumberland have taken a step forward.
Northumberland County Council submitted proposals for the Morpeth Northern Bypass scheme last month.
And last week, the secretary of state for communities and local government agreed to move to the next stage of the planning process.
The decision means that the application for creating one single order granting all the necessary consents for the bypass can begin.
The examination will take place over the next 15 months, and the secretary of state will then give his decision on the scheme in the autumn of 2014.
If the Development Consent Order (DCO) is granted, construction could begin on the new bypass in spring 2015, with the scheme completed by autumn 2016.
Coun Scott Dickinson, business chairman of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is a key milestone in building this much needed and awaited bypass, providing a key link between the A1 and Ashington, reducing through traffic in Morpeth and creating development opportunities to the north of Morpeth.
“The £30m project will also create jobs and training opportunities for people of Northumberland and provide opportunities for local suppliers during the construction phase.
“The Department for Transport will fund £21m of the costs and the remainder will come from the council’s own sources.
“We are looking forward to a positive response from the secretary of state in 15 months’ time.”