Traffic warning over plans to shut main road laybys for £5.5m bridge works

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Layby on A31
One of the large laybys under threat on the A31 at Markway Hill

“AWFUL” traffic problems will be caused if laybys on two main New Forest roads vanish as part of the £5.5m project to replace the rusting Holmsley Bridge, it has been warned.

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Brockenhurst parish councillor Kevin Whittle appealed to the Verderers’ Court on to revisit its support of a proposal to allow the gravel parking on the A35 at Markway Hill between Holmsley and Lyndhurst and on the A337 between Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst to return to natural vegetation.

It is part of a wider proposed transfer in which the verderers would hand over 2,124sqm of land Hampshire County Council needs to complete its project to replace the century-old steel Holmsley bridge and realign a quarter-mile section of the A35 near Burley.

In exchange the verderers are getting the 1,416sqm of highway no longer needed and an 850sqm parcel of gravelled layby at Markway Hill 1.5 miles north of the existing bridge.

Although the redundant highway and laybys would outstrip the amount of land HCC needs by 142sqm, the verderers also want all the other gravel roadside verges on the A35 to Lyndhurst and on the A337 between Brockenhurst on Lyndhurst on top of that.

Brockenhurst Parish Council has already spoken out against it and Cllr Whittle, a commoner and long-distance lorry driver, has been vociferous in his protests.

He told the Verderers Court he “can’t understand” the move because the layby land is beyond Forest fencing that restricts animal movements so cannot be used for grazing.

“In addition to this, slow moving vehicles have got nowhere to pull out of the way of faster traffic – as required by law – and tractors and trailers loaded with hay and straw would cause large disruption, especially during peak tourist season,” Cllr Whittle said.

“Some of the slow moving vehicles travel at 8mph, and that could cause awful problems with impatient motorists,” Cllr Whittle said.

Cllr Whittle revealed that on Tuesday he was called out to assist a lorry that had locked its brakes on the A35 route.

It took up to 20 minutes to release them, he added, and a further five hours in the layby to repair the lorry. “Without laybys we would cause a lot of problems,” Cllr Whittle added.

In his presentment, Cllr Whittle suggested alternative land be given to the verderers instead. The cattle grid at Holmsley lodge could be moved to the old tollhouse on the A35, he said, and that would give around half an acre of grazing back to the Forest.

It would also make it easier for management of a pound there if gates were installed which could be shut for round-ups or locked open when not in use. Doing that would allow ponies to roam freely and they would easier to be caught during a round- up, Cllr Whittle said.

As reported in the A&T, Holmsley Bridge is one of the oldest redundant railway structures in Hampshire, having had nothing to do with trains since the railway closed in 1964.

Badly-corroded, the 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 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.

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 England and Natural England.

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