Work begins after seven-year battle to ease Stubbington congestion problems
STANDFIRST: AFTER many years of planning and preparation, construction has begun on a new road in and out of the Gosport peninsula. DAVID GEORGE reports.
As the number of road users across the UK continues to soar, traffic jams have become a major issue for many motorists.
The Gosport peninsula has seen this problem amplified over the years; with one of the lowest job density rates in the UK (0.51 per working resident in 2017) most people have to leave the area to get to work in the morning.
Their choice is one of just three routes – the A32 up Fareham Road and Gosport Road; the newly-built Newgate Lane East; and via Stubbington, causing not only a build-up of traffic but an increase in air pollution.
But now, work has begun on a new road that will allow commuters to reach the A27 without queuing up through the once-quiet village.
Hampshire County Council and contractors BAM Nuttall have officially started work on the Stubbington Bypass, with the ceremonial first spade being planted in the ground on Monday, January 20.
In July 2013, a consultation was launched asking residents for their views on where the access points for the bypass could go.
It was hoped at the time that a bypass could not only address issues of traffic around Stubbington, but improve access to the enterprise zone at Daedalus.
The consultation, which ended in 2014 and received 490 responses, saw 75 per cent of residents support the proposals, but this then had to go through the planning process and money for the project still had to be found.
The government set aside £19.7m for the road in 2016, but it wasn’t until October 2019 that the remaining £25.5m was allocated to the scheme.
Deputy leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Rob Humby, said: ‘This has been a long time in the making.
‘It has taken a long time but there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes – things like environmental assessments and examining what mitigation measures we can take.
‘This is the last piece of the puzzle in a package of work and we are really excited about it.’
The bypass itself will be a stretch of road just under two miles (3.1km), running from a junction in the B3334 Gosport Road, opposite Solent Airport, to a new junction at the Titchfield Gyratory, connected to the A27.
Alongside the road will be a shared pedestrian and cycle path, giving cyclists a faster route up towards the A27.
Before the road is opened, more than 400 trees will be planted as part of a landscaping operation, with hopes of making the road ‘blend in' with its surroundings.
Engineers from BAM Nuttall have been told to build the bypass within two years.
The company has recently been working on transforming the M27 into a smart motorway.
Rob McClelland, one of the company's agents, said: ‘We’re really looking forward to cracking on with this project.
‘We've been involved since 2018 and there has been a lot of work that's gone in since that time, such as designing a plan of action and looking at how we can keep disruption to a minimum.
‘This is a really exciting project to be a part of – the benefits are huge for the local residents.’
With two years to complete the project, BAM Nuttall is starting the operation with a mobilisation phase, but the race is on to complete as much of the work as possible before the end of summer.
This means that everything needed for the project is being brought on-site in advance, and will sit in the fields rather than by the roadside.
From there, the road itself will be built in sections, with up to 100 workers on-site at peak times.
But despite the immense scale of the project, everyone involved is optimistic that motorists won’t be excessively inconvenienced.
Cllr Humby explained: ‘There will be some interruption to road users but we won’t be having any lane closures during peak times – that’s 6.30am to 9.30am and 3.30pm to 7pm.
‘The majority of the work is going on in the network of fields, so there will obviously be some disruption but a lot of that will be unnoticeable.’
The primary objective of the Stubbington Bypass is to cut down on the number of cars passing through Stubbington, while simultaneously providing a new way on and off the Gosport peninsula.
But top bosses of the project are also optimistic that it can also reduce air pollution in the area, by potentially preventing drivers from queuing up along Newgate Lane and the A32.
‘This is a bypass for Stubbington but it’s not just about the traffic,’ said Cllr Humby.
‘It will certainly assist with our air pollution – we’ve always considered the environment with this project but also the health benefits available.
‘The cycle path will help with our health agenda and people who enjoy walking will have a new route as well.’
Planning engineer John Cheval from BAM Nuttall added: ‘The trees being planted are the most I’ve ever seen on a single project.
‘It’s important to do something like that for the benefit of the environment.’
Top councillor refuses to rule out more housing
ONE of the major stumbling blocks for the Stubbington Bypass over the years has been the threat of additional housing.
Gosport politicians have been raising concerns for the past few years about the potential for housing near Newgate Lane, which could see hundreds of additional homes built on Fareham Borough Council land.
Politicians such as Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who lobbied the government for bypass funding, have said that additional housing would defeat the purpose of the bypass.
But Cllr Rob Humby hasn't ruled out the possibility for more homes in the future.
He said: ‘We would have to look at additional housing at that time.
'This investment has been done to reduce the congestion that we have now.
‘We’ve targeted this support to help the existing businesses and residents – any developments would be taken on its own merits.’