AN OUTSPOKEN district councillor has called for the Waterside railway line to be reopened to ease the traffic burden a major new development could cause.
There are fears that if the £1bn plan to redevelop the former Fawley power station site with up to 1,500 homes is approved, congestion on the A326 and surrounding roads will become a huge problem.
The proposals must go through the planning process to win approval by both New Forest District Council and the national park authority.
At the latest Brockenhurst Parish Council meeting, Cllr Maureen Holding voiced concerns that extra traffic generated could “clog” up nearby villages.
“I feel we ought to lobby all the parishes, everybody, to get the railway back,” Cllr Holding told members.
She acknowledged the developer, the Fawley Waterside consortium, had proposed widening the A326, but that “could take quite a long time” to do and did not mean the route would be able to “take all that is coming”.
Cllr Holding said it was “likely” the plan would be passed so it was better to flag up the issues now. “We have already got quite a lot of congestion as the cars and lorries that use the roads are always looking for short cuts,” she added. “It’s going to have a huge impact.”
Known as the Fawley Branch Line or the Waterside Line, the train route diverts from Totton on the Brockenhurst-to-Southampton Central route, going through Hardley and Hythe to Fawley.
As a passenger service, the stations were last used in the 1960s, but the line remains and services still run on it in the form of an enthusiast’s rail tour and another that serves the freight needs of Marchwood Military Port. A similar service for Fawley Refinery stopped in 2016.
In recent years the idea of reopening the line has been explored. In 2013, Hampshire County Council investigated the possibility but ultimately opted against taking it forward because of cost concerns.
However, it said in 2016 it was again open to the idea because of potential large scale development on the Waterside, and the Campaign for Better Transport had designated it a priority route for reopening to passenger use.
As reported in the A&T, Fawley Waterside Ltd submitted an outline masterplan in May to develop the former power station site, with its landmark 650ft chimney.
It includes scope for a primary school, business units, public open space, working docks and a 10-storey centrepiece building, plus a 2,100-space car park.
However, there have been 150 objections by residents to the plans – most of which centre on the impact of the development on the local infrastructure.
Those objections were made despite the consortium pledging to widen the A326 – which it acknowledged is an already “stressed” route because of the daily volume of traffic it hosts.
Parish councils including Hythe and Dibden, and Ashurst and Colbury, have echoed calls by Fawley Parish Council for “major improvements” to the A326, although have not formally opposed the scheme.
Marchwood Parish Council has objected “in the strongest possible terms” to the current plans over traffic concerns.