A PUBLIC consultation on plans to upgrade the northern section of the A120 has been put on hold.

The consultation, on upgrading the stretch of road from Hare Green to Harwich, was due to take place this year.

However, bosses at the Bathside Bay port development project – which cannot go ahead in Harwich until the road improvememnts have been concluded – say it will be delayed until next year at the earliest.

Last year, projects chiefs said a consultation would be due early this year.

But it has now been announced no further work on the project will be done until 2010. Work on the development must begin by 2016.

A spokesman for developer Hutchison Ports said: “This year we will not be doing anything.

“At the moment, as a result of the economic downturn, we are not progressing forward in 2009.

“We are still fully committed to the project, but at the moment we are concentrating on Felixstowe.”

Tony Woods, owner of AJ Woods engineering in the town, said: “This is a serious setback and it is very disappointing, especially as lorries from the port restrict the speed limit.”

Dave Mcleod, a Harwich town councillor who has been calling for the road to be dualled for years, said: “This is truly disappointing – yet again we have another delay.

“We need improvements now.”

The Highways Agency has stated the planned Stage One Study, which is set to identify a number of ideas for the road, before Hutchison Ports puts one preferred option out to a consultation.

Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, said: “I am going to write to the Minister for Roads and ask for a copy of the Stage One Study and, if it is not completed, for an explanation as to why it is.

“On safety grounds alone, I will continue to press the Department of Transport to make this a trunk road, rather than a regional road.”