TWO multi-million pound schemes to tackle some of the area’s busiest roads are on hold because of spending cuts.

The urgent £26 million rebuild of the A338 Bournemouth Spur Road has missed out on funding for a second time and been downgraded in priority.

And the £9.5m scheme for a third lane on the A31 at Ringwood has been shelved, with one councillor saying “the window of opportunity has shut”.

A 6.5-mile stretch of the A338 Spur Road from Bournemouth to Ringwood – which carries 59,000 vehicles a day – is deemed worn-out. However, the Department of Transport has put the scheme in with a pool of planned roadworks that need more study.

Even if approved, the earliest it could start is the very end of 2011 – more than a year late.

The council had considered paying for the scheme with loans and grants, but that idea looks finished because the authority faces a £48m budget cut.

“It is probably receding into the background,” said Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for transport. “The road costs £1m a year in maintenance. It’s a ridiculous situation. We will be lobbying like crazy.”

Dorset County Council has spent £1m already on preparatory work including six months clearing verges and removing rare sand lizards over the winter of 2009.

Cllr Finney said if the works did go ahead, the verges would need “a little bit of work”.

He said of the protected snakes and lizards: “A number will have migrated back again but there won’t be as many as last year.”

Christchurch MP Christopher Chope, a former transport minister, said he could not understand why the Department for Transport had asked for more information.

“I am bit annoyed that we seem to have been outmanoeuvred again by the department,” he said.

The improvements Highways Agency had planned for the A31 at Ringwood included a third lane from the Ringwood flyover to the Verwood slip road. They have been shelved in favour of electronic signs on Poulner Hill to warn of queues further west.

Mayor Cllr Christine Ford said: “I’m disappointed. It was a window of opportunity that has shut, I’m afraid. The signing at the top of Poulner Hill will certainly be a help.”

She said there had been a “tremendous number” of accidents on the A31 between there and Ringwood.

“And it’s absolute hell for people who live on the hill trying to get out of their drive. If it’s not going helter skelter, it’s at a standstill,” she said.

Local businessman Jim Stride said: “The third lane would have eased congestion there in the summer.

“Everybody is being hit by the cutbacks.

“You get to the top of Poulner Hill and bang – you’re in a car park. Having the signs there will be a tiny, tiny bonus.”