ONE of the main routes through the New Forest used by thousands of drivers every day could be closed for up to four weeks at a time while the worn-out Holmsley Bridge is replaced.
The A35 is set to be shut a number of times over the 11-month project when Hampshire County Council swaps Holmsley Bridge, near Burley, with a brand new crossing.
If all goes to plan, HCC anticipates the work will start in March next year and be completed by February 2021.
Details of the £5.5m scheme have been revealed in a planning application to the national park authority.
Diversions have yet to be confirmed but a suggested route in the application showed vehicles travelling south to Christchurch heading down the A326, turning onto the B3054 at Dibden Purlieu and passing through Beaulieu, Lymington, Everton and New Milton.
The plans said road closures would be during a phase of up to seven months, adding: “Where possible, closures will avoid the summer season, school holidays and the Christmas period and other key events such as cycle races.”
It also noted operations would take account of New Forest events such as during the annual animal drift between mid-August and early November.
The old bridge will be taken down after the new crossing has been constructed next to it, including a realignment of 380 metres of the A35.
The reinforced concrete bridge would be single-span, with the A35 6.5 metres wide at the crossing with 1.7-metre footways.
The plans explained: “The purpose of the scheme is to improve road safety along this section of the A35, as the existing bridge is in a poor structural condition and the existing road alignment does not currently meet driver visibility and safety standards.”
Another effect will be to put Osmond’s Bushes car park to the south-east of the bridge off limits to residents while it is used as the works compound.
As reported in the A&T, part of the scheme will involve several large laybys on the A35 and A337 being returned to vegetation in a land swap deal with the verderers.
It will have to take extra precautions to protect the surrounding New Forest habitats which includes high-level designations including a Special Protection Area, Ramsar site and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The application revealed 11 options had been considered – including a new roundabout or traffic-lit junction combined with the bridge replacement.
The footpath that currently runs under the north span of the existing bridge will be slightly realigned, it added, and the proposed location of the south abutment positioned to enable the possibility of a cycleway along the southern side of Station Road.
The original Holmsley Bridge was constructed in 1847 to carry the A35 over the Southampton to Dorchester railway. In 1908 upgrading works replaced the existing bridge with the current steel bridge. The rail line and adjacent Holmsley station were closed to passengers in 1964.
The rail line beneath the A35 was replaced with Station Road (the C10) in 1970 and the A35 has since continued to use the existing bridge over Station Road. The bridge came into the ownership of HCC in 2012.
The NPA will make a decision after the deadline for public comments on 12th August.