ROADWORKS on one of Bournemouth's busiest roads have fallen behind schedule, prompting fears thousands of Christmas shoppers will be caught up in gridlock.

The major improvement scheme surrounding Castlepoint on Castle Lane West is now not set to finish until December 15.

Motorists were initially warned to expect major traffic delays until mid-November while the traffic lights at the junction with Mallard Road and Yeoman's Way was replaced with a signalised roundabout.

And an associated scheme to widen the carriageway between Woodbury Avenue and Crantock Grove and build a central reservation preventing traffic turning right into Craigmoor Way was due to finish by November 26.

But with 428,000 carloads of customers expected to converge on Castlepoint during December, the delay could cause chaos in what is already one of the town's most congested areas.

Peter Matthews, Castlepoint centre manager, said they would be putting measures in place to assist traffic flow and advised anyone concerned about the congestion to take advantage of the centre's extended opening hours.

Castlepoint will be open until 9pm every night during December in the build-up to Christmas and Mr Matthews said: "My suggestion would be to either shop early or shop late.

"We're open and ready for business and looking forward to a successful Christmas period."

Mike Holmes, head of planning and transport at Bournemouth council, said: "There was a late start to the project due to issues in connection with legal agreements and so we have granted a two-week extension that will end on December 15.

"The last week of the extension should be used for general organising and tidying of the site. There should be some improvement in traffic flow as sections of the carriageway are complete."