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Holmsley Bridge foundation problem blamed for three-month A35 closure

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A PROBLEM installing foundations of the replacement Holmsley bridge has been officially blamed for the A35 having to shut for three months in the new year – much longer than originally planned.

The issue with the £5.5m project was discovered following checks by the contractor, Ringwood-based Knights Brown, appointed by Hampshire County Council.

The company denied there had been a mistake by its team, instead saying: “The issue is one of quality.”

An aerial view of the project (photo: Knights Brown)
An aerial view of the project (photo: Knights Brown)

A spokesperson told the A&T: “Fortunately, our safety and quality procedures are such that we wouldn’t proceed beyond this critical point without a thorough review, and so were able to identify an issue with an element of the piling.”

The piling was corrected but pushed the work “some weeks behind schedule”, the company said.

To ensure the project was finished by the busy summer – described as a “critical factor” for businesses and HCC – it was decided to implement the three-month closure from 4th January until 8th April.

News of a large section of the route totally shutting for more than 100 days came as a surprise to some, such as Brockenhurst Parish Council, which had understood full closures would only be for a few days as the new bridge was put in place of the crumbling older one that spans the C10 Station Road.

When the measure was first revealed on signs on the A35 earlier in December, Burley parish councillor Jon Cook told the A&T he “understood the necessity” of replacing Holmsley Bridge but the closures “will undoubtedly mean a substantial uplift in traffic volumes passing through the centre of Burley as vehicles seek to find alternative routes”.

He added: “Having experienced two animal fatalities in the village in the last month as well as numerous close calls between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, as a parish council our primary aim during the road closures is to mitigate the overall impact of the works on our residents, business folk and of course the wildlife that freely roams in and around the village.

“To this end we will closely monitor our recently installed CCTV network and will continue to work closely with Hampshire police to ensure that people using the roads in and around the village in an inappropriate or irresponsible manner are dealt with appropriately, whilst ensuring that the village continues to remain fully open and welcoming to all.”

An HCC spokesperson added: “For the safety of the site team, and of course road users, the A35 will need to be temporarily closed for a longer period than originally planned in order to facilitate the safe tie-in of the new road alignment over the new bridge to the original road at each end.

The bridge will be closed from January
The bridge will be closed from January

“The aim remains to minimise any inconvenience to local residents and businesses and ensure the road is open again for the busier summer period.”

The closure will be between the St Michael and All Angels Church in Hinton and the Vinney Ridge Inclosure junction, south of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

The C10 will also be closed, meaning those living in Burley will be instructed to use diversion routes via Hinton towards Brockenhurst or Lymington.

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.

The A35 and A31 diversions prompted a plea by the national park authority for drivers to follow official diversions to avoid heavy traffic posing a danger to livestock on dark, unfenced roads.

Steve Avery, NPA executive director, said: “If you do travel on the unfenced roads, please take extra care and always be prepared to stop for New Forest animals.

“Animals do not have any road sense so may step out in front of you even if you think they have seen you. Other road users might be unfamiliar with the roads so may well be nervous and travel slower, so please allow extra time for your journey.

“Please be patient and don’t overtake unless you can clearly see the road ahead and any animals which may be grazing on the verges.”

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