A CONTROVERSIAL rat run in Ringwood is set to be closed amid proposals to widen the A31, new plans have shown.

The westbound carriageway - between the A338 Salisbury Road junction to the B3081 turn-off for Verwood - aims to reduce congestion during the busy summer months, improving safety and better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The plans should see the carriageway widened to three lanes to cope with high volumes of traffic.

Part of the plans include the closure of West Street which became something of a rat run for motorists who took to the market town to avoid congestion on the A31 brought about during the A338 rebuild works.

The issue has divided the town, with some calling for it to be closed amid safety concerns while others pleaded to keep it open for emergency services and existing trades.

An additional lane would be added to the westbound entry slip road at Ringwood junction to help relieve the existing bottleneck at the junction and the road will be widened where it crosses the River Avon.

The consultation, which goes on display to the public at the Gateway on Friday (JUN 30) continues until August 4.

Speaking of the £12-£13.5million scheme, set to start in March 2010, Highways England senior project manager Neil Andrew said: “This section of the A31 is used to make more than 77,000 journeys every day, and we’ve developed these plans to make real improvements to journeys. Plans will lead to the road being safer and supporting access for people getting to Ringwood town centre by foot or by bike.

“We want the planned improvements to be the right ones for drivers and people living and working in Ringwood and the surrounding area. I encourage anyone with an interest in the A31 to get involved and let us know what they think at consultation to help us shape the project.”

Funding for the scheme comes from the Department for Transport’s £15billion Roads Investment Strategy, announced in 2014, which is providing people with better journeys, cutting congestion and improving the economy.

All responses to the consultation will be carefully considered before an announcement on the final plans is made later this year, Highways has confirmed.