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Hampshire County Council accused of negligence for diverting traffic along pothole-riddled Sway Road during A35 Holmsley bridge roadworks

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A SENIOR councillor has warned there could be a major accident from the failure to fix potholes on a narrow route used by drivers during the three-month shutdown of the A35.

Cllr Steve Clarke said there could be a serious or even fatal crash on Sway Road, which winds between New Milton and Brockenhurst, as traffic uses it to bypass the closure at Holmsley bridge during the £5.5m replacement project.

He hit out at Hampshire County Council for not making it safer before motorists switched routes in January to avoid the blockage on one of the busiest roads in the Forest.

Holmsley Bridge is being replaced
Holmsley Bridge is being replaced

As reported in the A&T, the A35 and C10 are shut until 8th April after problems with the new bridge foundations meant the scheme will take longer than planned.

Cllr Clarke told a full town council meeting: “I’d like to publicly express my disappointment that the county council has gone ahead with the closures without repairing Sway Road in any way. It’s absolutely dangerous.

“I fear there will be a serious accident, especially with two-way traffic being increased. You cannot avoid the potholes.

“This is absolute negligence on Hampshire County Council’s part.”

Town mayor Cllr Keith Craze backed his complaint, and town clerk Graham Flexman has contacted HCC to highlight the problem.

Further discussion of the matter during a town council planning committee meeting last Thursday saw members share concerns over the bridge work’s impact on the B3058 Bashley Common Road, near the Rising Sun pub.

Fears of potential animal collisions prompted a request for one of the council’s speed limit reminder signs to be installed on the route.

Responding, an HCC spokesperson told the A&T its highways team was aware of Sway Road’s condition and arrangements were being made for substantial repairs.

However, that will only happen after the A35 has reopened “in order to avoid further inconvenience and traffic disruption in the area”.

The spokesperson continued: “Sway Road was agreed as the most direct and suitable road for the A35 diversion, and the traffic management arrangements for the Holmsley bridge replacement work were previously shared with Brockenhurst and Burley parish councils, the verderers, Forestry England and New Forest National Park Authority.

Cllr Steve Clarke
Cllr Steve Clarke

“The condition of all the diversion routes will be regularly and routinely monitored and any necessary works will be undertaken to ensure they remain in a safe and serviceable condition.”

The bridge works have also seen drivers prevented from using Holmsley Passage which runs between the A35 and Station Road/Wilverley Road, near Burley.

This came after HCC noted motorists had used the narrow cut-through to avoid the existing diversion.

Fearing long-term damage to verges, it said the road was not wide enough for vehicles to pass side-by-side, and announced it would be kept closed until 30th June with a signed diversion in place.

“The verges along Holmsley Passage have been damaged and have had to be repaired on a number of occasions,” an HCC spokesperson said.

“The decision to close the road is to prevent any other potentially long-term damage to verges.”

The council stressed letters about the closure had been sent to local residents, who would be allowed access to their properties.

Holmsley Passage’s closure was scheduled to last nearly three months beyond the bridge works’ planned completion to prevent motorists trying to circumvent any temporary traffic signals.

But the spokesperson added: “However, the aim at this stage is to reopen Holmsley Passage at the same time as the A35 and C10, once the main elements of the replacement bridge have been completed – hopefully just before Easter.”

Further traffic will be diverted through the New Forest when the A31 shuts for a few nights later this month to install a contraflow running until November, as part of the £25m widening scheme at Ringwood.

The dual carriageway will be closed between Junction 1 of the M27 at Cadnam and the A338 at Ashley Heath from 8pm-6am on Thursday 20th January and at the same time on 23rd, 24th and 25th January.

Traffic will be officially sent around the closure via the A338, A35 in Christchurch, A337 to Lymington, the B3054, the A326 and the M27.

HCC advised drivers to report any urgent road defects to www.hants.gov.uk/transport/roadmaintenance/roadproblems/potholes

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