Motorists face A35 misery as eight-mile stretch to be closed for three months, Hampshire County Council confirms
DRIVERS face three months of disruption on one of the New Forest’s main arteries when the A35 completely shuts for bridge replacement work in the new year.
An eight-mile stretch of the main road used by thousands of vehicles every day will be closed from 4th January until 8th April as the crumbling Holmsley crossing over the C10 is replaced by Hampshire County Council in a £5.5m scheme.
The closure will be between the St Michael and All Angels Church at Hinton and the Vinney Ridge Inclosure junction – south of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.
The C10 road below Holmsley bridge will also be closed, meaning those living in Burley will be instructed to use diversion routes via Hinton if they are heading towards Brockenhurst or Lymington.
Asked to comment by the A&T, an HCC spokesperson only pointed to a page on the council’s website, which confirmed: “Between 4th January and 8th April 2022, C10 Station Road and the A35 will be fully closed.”
Official diversions for traffic heading from Christchurch towards Lyndhurst will go from the turning at Hinton and travel via New Milton, Sway and Brockenhurst.
Traffic coming from Lyndhurst will be redirected via Brockenhurst and then Lymington.
The disruption coincides with the major £25m Highways England scheme to the A31 at Ringwood, as well as ongoing work on the A326 on the Waterside.
While closures were anticipated, news of a large section of the route totally shutting for more than 100 days came as a surprise to some local authorities.
Brockenhurst Parish Council clerk Heather Lawrence told the A&T: “We understood that the A35 would have to be closed completely only to allow the bridge beams to be transported along it from Lyndhurst which would happen for very short periods.
“Apart from that, we understood that one-way working was to be the norm. Consequently we are asking Hampshire Highways for clarification.”
But Graham Flexman, New Milton Town Council clerk, thought it could be a good time to proceed with the project.
“We realise no time is a good time to close the main A35 road through the New Forest. But the proposed dates after Christmas and before Easter do avoid main holiday times,” he said.
“There will be disruption and delays, especially knock-on effects from any A31 closures. Work needs to be carried out now; traffic currently is 20% down due to home working.”
He added: “We shall work closely with Hampshire Highways to ameliorate any delays and impacts.
“This long-awaited work has been delayed a couple of years due to the Covid pandemic.”
Sway Parish Council clerk Katie Walding said: "The council has been aware of the programme and was part of the consultation during the planning application.
"The work is important and must be completed, and obviously we all hope that drivers will take due care and attention when driving the forest roads."
The A&T also asked Burley Parish Council for comment.
The main work will see a new bridge built alongside the existing one, which goes over the C10 Station Road, and traffic transferred over before the old steel bridge is removed. Approximately 380 metres of the A35 will also be realigned.
As reported in the A&T, the original Holmsley bridge was constructed in 1847 to carry the A35 over the Southampton-to-Dorchester railway. In 1908 upgrade work replaced the existing bridge with the current steel one.
The rail line and adjacent Holmsley station were closed to passengers in 1964.
The rail line beneath the A35 was replaced with the C10 Station Road in 1970 and the A35 has since continued to use the existing bridge across it.
The bridge came into the ownership of HCC in 2012. It decided to undertake the replacement project after concluding the bridge had deteriorated so much that a new one was the only viable option.
The scheme has not been without controversy. Local councillor Kevin Whittle, an HGV driver, criticised several large laybys on the A35 and A337 being returned to vegetation in a land-swap deal with the verderers to enable it to proceed.