FURTHER discussions will be held before a proposed cycle lane – which has met with stern opposition from residents and business owners – is installed in Christchurch.

It comes after concerns a two-metre-wide dual cycle lane along Barrack Road could affect access to businesses.

However, a group campaigning for safer walking and cycling infrastructure has shown its support for the scheme.

The scheme is part of the Transforming Cities Fund and would run on one side of the road from the entrance to the Bailey Bridge retail park to the crossing near Iford Bridge.

However, traders say the plans will “destroy” their businesses, and have submitted a petition with hundreds of signatures to the council.

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Neil Kennedy of the Bed Shop, who has led the campaign, said: “This will cause untold damage all along Barrack Road by removing the on-street parking.

“You would have thought the council would have wanted to help businesses, not put them in jeopardy.”

Andy West, from the Dyson Centre, branded the council’s consultation “non-existent” and said council leaders had failed to respond to them.

“This is one of the busiest roads in the conurbation with around 23,000 vehicles a day compared with about 600 cyclists," he said.

"It doesn’t make sense.”

Commons ward councillor Margaret Phipps said the scheme was “ill thought-out” and would cause major economic damage to businesses.

“To suggest that shoppers can park on side roads is ridiculous, as they are already congested with residents’ parking, and they will have to cross the new cycleway to do so," she said.

“Barrack Road is the main A35 and takes a huge amount of traffic, and to narrow it down in this way is irresponsible and downright dangerous.

“Whilst I support sustainable travel initiatives, they must be in the right place.”

Ward councillor Vanessa Ricketts told Tuesday’s BCP council meeting that a petition of around 500 signatures had expressed concerns that the proposed dual cycleway might affect both road safety and the viability of businesses.

Portfolio holder Cllr Mike Greene said the cycle way scheme, which would link Christchurch and Merley, would help keep cars off the road – but promised there would be further consultation before work started.

He said there had been concerns about a reduction in parking outside some Barrack Road businesses which he said would be considered before reaching any decisions on the final design.

“The biggest problem we have on our roads is congestion," said Cllr Greene.

"If by giving people safe and attractive choices we can persuade just a small percentage of those to choose a more sustainable mode of travel this will have a significant impact on the level of congestion seen on our roads, allowing junctions to operate within their physical capacity and freeing space up for those who do still want to use their cars. There will be benefits from reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality too."

Residents and business owners raised questions about the alleged lack of consultation prior to the submission of the plans, and the fact that the cycle lane could affect accessibility for emergency services vehicles.

However BCP Council has refuted both of the allegations, saying the proposals have undergone “extensive” consultation with two rounds of public engagement.

Cllr Greene said: “Traffic congestion is the greatest blocker to emergency services’ journey times, not the width of cycle ways or roads.

“Any changes to the road will strictly adhere to Department for Transport guidance to ensure that what is being designed will be safe for all road users, including emergency vehicles.”

Construction is provisionally due to start around spring 2022, but this is subject to final approval of the design plans.

BH Active Travel, a group of residents campaigning for safer walking and cycling infrastructure, have shown their support for the scheme, saying it would be a “great addition” to the area.

Chair of BH Active Travel Lucie Allen said: “The proposed two-way cycle lane along Barrack Road is really needed and will be a great addition to allow people to cycle safely, away from the motor traffic on a ‘stepped’ cycle track.

“The current cycling provision on Barrack Road is patchy, made up of on road ‘painted lines’, jumping to the shared use pavements or non-existent.

“Local cafes and shops should be happy too as studies show that people who walk or cycle to the shops visit more times than those arriving by car and spend up to 40 per cent more over a month.”