CONTROVERSIAL plans to close a sliproad on to the A31 at one of its busiest junctions are being supported by Ringwood Town Council.

Members of the council's Planning, Town and Environment committee agreed to support the permanent closure of the West Street sliproad near the Fish Inn at Ringwood.

The move is part of a major scheme to widen the westbound carriageway of the trunk road, which is due to be carried out by Highways England in the next few years.

Councillors said they would only support the move if it is carried out after the works to widen the road have been completed.

They said they fear that if it was closed earlier then it could lead to gridlock in the town while diversions are in place.

Members said they believe the closure would have a long-term beneficial effect on the town.

Hampshire County Council has secured £380,000 from Highways England to carry out various improvements in Ringwood town centre. This includes the closure of West Street.

The meeting was told that the emergency services have no objection to the closure of West Street.

Highways England is in the process of developing detailed designs for the widening of the A31 and the work is expected to start in spring 2021 and end the following year.

The works, set to cost around £13 million, are likely to include increasing the width of the A31 from two lanes to three lanes on the westbound carriageway between the Ringwood and Verwood junctions, a distance of roughly one kilometre.

Bridges over the River Avon and Bickerley Millstream would need to be widened to accommodate the third lane and there would be improvements to the existing cycle path adjacent to the A31.

The scheme has been deemed necessary due to delays caused by high volumes of traffic causing long delays at peak times, due to the high number of junctions that are close together.

The area experiences heavy congestion during the summer months, particularly over the August bank holiday weekend.

When complete, the widened road will lead to fewer delays, improved safety and the capacity for the infrastructure to support growth plans, employment opportunities and housing.