Plans for A326 North improvements move a step forward

Plans to improve the A326 (between Totton and Applemore in the New Forest) mean that residents and businesses in the Waterside area could benefit from better transport connections, reduced pressures on local roads and improved safety after Hampshire County Council agreed to progress designs for a northern section of the road

Jan 23 2024

At his decision meeting held today (22 January), Councillor Rob Humby, County Council Leader and Executive Lead Member for Hampshire 2050 agreed for the scheme to move to the next stage. He commented: “This strategically important scheme will address existing issues experienced by those who are living and working in or visiting the Waterside area of the New Forest. It will also support the wider Waterside Vision – which sets an ambition for the sustainable growth of the Waterside area – as well as expanding on a £50 million investment in schemes to improve transportation and travel that we’ve delivered and are delivering already in this part of the county. This includes improvements to the south section of the A326, the Transforming Cities-funded Eling to Holbury Cycle Route, and bus priority improvements at Rushington Roundabout and on the Marchwood Bypass. 

“The Waterside is home to nationally significant infrastructure and industrial assets such as Fawley Oil Refinery and some of the most important environmental areas in the UK. This plays a critical role in the national economy and this scheme will support the unlocking of the area’s potential for sustainable growth.”

Agreement to develop a detailed design for the A326 North improvement scheme will enable the County Council to apply for planning approval and submit an outline business case to the Department for Transport (DfT) for funding in the Autumn. At his decision meeting, Councillor Humby also reviewed the outcome of a public consultation on an initial scheme design (held during summer 2023).

Councillor Humby added: “In agreeing to move these proposals to the next stage, I have considered in detail the responses from residents and other stakeholders received through the engagement exercise last summer. I understand the concerns of some residents about protecting our environment and road building, but I am confident that construction of this scheme will be done sensitively with all due regard and care for the surrounding habitat.

“This proposed scheme is not simply about increasing capacity on the A326 to cope with existing and increasing traffic volumes, it is also about drawing traffic away from local roads such as those that run through the New Forest National Park and Waterside communities, as well as measures to enable more active travel by making it easier and safer to cross the road. More widely, if the future economic opportunities of the Solent Freeport are to be unlocked, improvements to this major route will be fundamental.”

To mitigate the impact and enhance the local environment, a landscape plan will be developed alongside the highway design which will maximise biodiversity along the route through, for example, creating species rich grasslands along new verges, planting trees and shrubs and redesigning a drainage tunnel through Bartley Water to ensure fish and otter movements can continue as they would usually. 

The Waterside Vision was developed by a public-private consortium supported by Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, New Forest National Park Authority and major landowners. It aims to create up to 6,700 new jobs and attract over £3 billion of private sector investment in the area and, at the same time enhance the environment. 

The A326 North improvement scheme is part of the Government’s national Large Local Majors (LLM) programme, which is itself part of the Major Road Network (MRN) funding stream.  This is a programme set up by the Department for Transport (DfT) to assist Local Transport Authorities in funding the largest and most important schemes they have on their local road networks.