FUNDS have been secured to carry out an essential multi-million pound replacement to a bridge used by thousands of New Forest motorists.

Work to the section of the A35 at Holmsley had been earmarked as a “priority scheme”.

Hampshire County Council was allocated the full £5.5m for the project. Repairs are set to take place in the coming weeks before the replacement, which is scheduled to begin in 2020.

The local authority announced a total of £160m of investment to the road network.

Cllr Rob Humby, executive member for environment and transport, said: “This year alone, 15 major schemes across Hampshire are in either the design or delivery stage, compared to two or three just a few years ago.

“This investment in Hampshire’s roads and transport is vital to our economic prospects and our quality of life, with improvements focussed on relieving congestion, improving air quality and safety, and easing journey times as the population grows.”

Concerns were raised about the impact any scheme to repair the bridge at Holmsley would have on traffic.

The road serves as the link between Christchurch and the New Forest and feeds Dorset motorists towards the M27.

A precautionary 40 mileper hour speed limit has been implemented on the stretch of the A35 for more than a year as an alternative to closing the 110-year-old arch, which carries traffic over the C10 Burley to Sway Road.

Details of the replacement scheme have not been publicised, but back in 2016 four options had been identified.

A year ago it was revealed the cost of the project could reach £4m after civic chiefs had originally set aside at least £2m. However, the £5.5m of funds now allocated mean even more has been attached to the scheme to ensure it can be completed effectively.

Cllr Humby said the overall investment in roads followed a thorough lobbying process.

“Much of the funding for these improvements has been secured through competitive bidding, and the county council’s expertise and successful preparation has directed national investment to Hampshire,” he added

“In these times of financial pressures on council services, it is even more important that we are able to lever in additional funding to improve transport links, so that people can go about their day to day lives and Hampshire shows it is open for business.”