Main road parking at risk as verderers demand land swap in £5.5m bridge repair

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A layby on the A35 at risk as part of the proposed land exchange

A ROW is revving up after it emerged a number of laybys on two main New Forest roads could vanish as part of a £5.5m project to replace the rusting Holmsley bridge.

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On Wednesday, the Verderers’ Court backed a land transfer which includes allowing the gravel verges along the A35 between Holmsley and Lyndhurst and on the A337 between Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst to return to natural vegetation.

A report said the land was required “to compensate for loss of habitat and biodiversity” that will result from Hampshire County Council’s plan to rebuild the century-old steel Holmsley bridge with concrete and realign a quarter-mile section of the A35 near Burley.

It is part of a wider proposed transfer in which the verderers would hand over the 2,124 square metres of land the county council needs to complete the project in exchange for the 1,416 square metres of highway no longer needed and an 850-square metre parcel of gravelled layby at Markway Hill 1.5 miles north of the existing bridge.

Although the two redundant highway and layby would outstrip the amount of land HCC needs by 142 square metres, the verderers also want all the roadside verges on the route on top of that.

The laybys provide a crucial rest-stop for many HGVs and at this week’s meeting of Brockenhurst Parish Council meeting, Cllr Kevin Whittle, a commoner and lorry driver, said: “Lorries have to park somewhere.”

Acknowledging the large laybys were not liked by local residents, he added: “They don’t realise that pretty much everything comes on a truck. If you do not want trucks, stop buying things.”

Cllr Whittle complained the local lorry park at Ringwood was a “waste of space” because it was designated for cars during daylight hours but HGVs needed somewhere to stop as strict safety laws limited the hours drivers were allowed at the wheel.

He was backed by his colleagues, with parish chairman Cllr Pete Wales admitting he was aware the layby plan had “caused a certain amount of issues”.

Cllr Michael Croker added: “I agree absolutely with Cllr Whittle here. What seems to be happening is that the relatively small amount of land Highways want to take to build the new bridge is considerably exceeded by the square meterage of the informal laybys [the verderers] want to take in exchange.

“They don’t just want one [layby]. Essentially this is a condition by Natural England but it is being driven by the verderers,” he added.

As reported in the A&T, the new bridge will be built parallel to the existing crossing, which will be demolished when construction is complete. The work will start in March 2020.

The rusting A35 Holmsley Bridge will be rebuilt out of concrete from March 2020

To get the go-ahead for such a protected site, the county council needs a range of permissions, including from the verderers, national park authority, Forestry Commission and Natural England.

The A&T understands local councillors and residents were recently given a tour of the site and were largely happy with the proposals – except for the layby loss.

The layby plan was laid bare in a presentment to the Verderers’ Court by Hampshire County Council Highways solicitor Michael Renouf. He said anyone opposed can raise concerns with the verderers at its next meeting on Wednesday 17th April.

Alternatively they can appeal directly to the Southampton Magistrates’ Court under section 256 of the Highways Act 1980 – but must do so by April 22nd.

The badly-corroded metal bridge was built in 1908, replacing a brick arch, to carry the A35 over the Brockenhurst to Ringwood section of the old Southampton and Dorchester Railway dating from 1847 that ran along what is now Station Road.

The current bridge is one of the oldest redundant railway structures in Hampshire, having had nothing to do with trains since the railway closed over half a century ago in 1964.

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