NEW Forest West MP Desmond Swayne is backing Ringwood Town Council's call for improved safety measures on the A31.

The Conservative MP, who has been campaigning for the Tories at the Eastleigh by-election this morning, said he was seeking to arrange a meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on behalf of the council.

He also condemned the Highways Agency's mixed response to the town council's proposals as “very frustrating” and “bureaucracy”.

He said: “The council's proposals are very measured, sensible and inexpensive contribution, given that there are longer term plans for the road further down the line.

“The most critical of these, to my mind, is to reduce the speed limit to 50mph from Picket Post to Ringwood, and it was very frustrating to have the Highways Agency tell us there weren't enough accidents to make it viable.

“I have been campaigning on this for 15 years and the town council has my full backing.

“I called for a meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport last year but we were referred on to the Highways Agency. But we have had that meeting and haven't got anywhere, so I will have another go at arranging one with the minister.”

Mr Swayne also backed the council's proposal that the road be re-designated as an urban road.

“When it was the built it divided Ringwood in half, actually dividing existing roads,” he said.

“And no one who lives along there can forget it is there due to the noise. It is entirely reasonable to consider it an urban road for that stretch, much like the A338 as it passes into Bournemouth.”