11:00am Saturday 13th April 2013
CAMPAIGNERS calling for a reduction in the speed limit on the A31 have been granted a crucial meeting with the roads minister to state their case.
Ringwood town councillors and New Forest MP Desmond Swayne will meet with MP Stephen Hammond to discuss safety measures on the notorious stretch of road from Picket Post to Ashley Heath.
The meeting follows the death of Ringwood teenager Jade Clark, who died in a collision on the road in February.
Previous calls to reduce the speed limit have previously been rejected by the Highways Agency who says not enough motorists have been injured to justify a reduction in the 70mph speed limit.
But passionate and determined local people, supported by Ringwood Town Council, have disputed this, continuing to call for improvements to the road.
Ringwood Town councillor, Michael Thierry, said he was delighted the issue was being taken seriously.
“We will be discussing what can be done about the A31. There are measures that can be put in place - road widening, better signage on the bridges - but the great difficulty is that all these things cost money”, he told the Daily Echo.
“What is doable now is to reduce the limit to 50mph. These other initiatives cannot happen overnight.
“I think Ringwood Town Council can take a great deal of credit ; it's just a little town council and thanks to great publicity and support from people, we have been granted a meeting with the roads minister.
“This is an important meeting; obviously the transport minister has deemed the issue important enough to urge the roads minster to meet with us.”
Cllr Thierry said representatives would be asking for a re-grading of the road as a dual carriageway within an urban area which should be 50mph.
“I saw it as a David and Goliath situation with Ringwood as lots of little Davids but we are proving that when you stick to what you believe, things can happen.”
New Forest MP Desmond Swayne said: “I am pleased we have got a meeting but we still have an uphill struggle in persuading them that that there are a number of things that could be done.
“The 50mph from Picket Post to Ashley Heath would be a minor extension as well as inexpensive.
“I just can't believe that it has taken so long - as long as I've been an MP for 15 years.
“At least we will be able to forcefully state our case with the minister.”
Officials from the Highways Agency are also expected to be present at the meeting.
- A health and safety consultant has appeared in court in connection with Jade’s accident.
Brian Hampton has been charged with causing death by careless driving, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and failing to stop after an accident.
Police have also seized a Volvo XC90.
Hampton, 58, of Hornash Lane in Shadoxhurst, near Ashford in Kent, has been remanded in custody.
A recent letter to Ringwood Town Council from the Highways Agency said the organisation remains committed to finding a solution for the A31.
They say they remain committed to a proposed widening scheme and will be undertaking work over the next year to consider the impact on Ringwood should the access from West Street onto the A31 be closed to allow improvements.
It said: “The Highways Agency understands and shares the genuine concern for road safety being expressed, however, any safety intervention - be it a speed limit or other measure - needs to be backed up by evidence to show it has a worthwhile safety improvement.”
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