An £8.13m project to transform eight junctions on the A326 – the critical road connecting the coastal communities along the New Forest Waterside of Southampton Water, will now commence in 2020 – eight years ahead of schedule, following approval by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership of a £5.691m grant at its Board meeting on the 13th December 2019.
The A326 is the only key highway corridor serving the Waterside Peninsular, home to some 70,000 people, with existing employment centres at Fawley Refinery and Solent Gateway port. Further large investments are planned along the Waterside, including the landmark Fawley Waterside development and the recent £750m investment at the ExxonMobil refinery. This demonstrates the unique appeal of the Waterside, situated between the globally-renowned maritime environment of Southampton Water and the world-class environment of the New Forest National Park. The project, which was initiated by Fawley Waterside Ltd and will be delivered by Hampshire County Council, represents the first step in the renaissance of the Waterside, an area of the Solent that has seen much industrial change and with communities that have so much potential to embrace the opportunities that sustainable economic growth will bring. This project is an excellent first step in transforming connectivity of the Waterside, and the partners are continuing to work together, with other Waterside stakeholders, on other future corridor improvements.
Solent LEP Chairman Gary Jeffries: “I am delighted the LEP has agreed to invest in this project, which will not only better connect, and deliver a renaissance of our, coastal communities now, but deliver highway infrastructure ahead of the transformation of the former Fawley Power Station, into a thriving new, sustainable community. The cycling and walking investment that forms part of the transport package aligns well with our focus on clean growth and climate change adaptation, which are emerging as central tenets of our new Solent 2050 Economic Strategy, which we will publish for consultation in the New Year.”
Fawley Waterside Chief Executive and local resident, Aldred Drummond said: “Our ambition is to build one of the most beautiful small towns in England; A place with solid economic purpose. We are tremendously grateful for the investment from the LEP, which comes in alongside the £2.5m investment we are contributing to this transport improvement package. As a local resident, the quality of what we deliver for the area and the community, here at Fawley Waterside, is dear to my heart and this investment from the LEP represents strong backing for our vision.”
Minister for Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said:
“We are committed to boosting economic growth and levelling up every place in the UK.
“Thanks to £5.69 million of Government support from the Local Growth Fund, coastal communities along the Solent will benefit from faster, better roads as part of a wider transport package improving cycleways and new footpaths. These projects will help unlock the economic potential of the area by improving accessibility to a thriving sustainable environment which will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for years to come.”
New Forest Leader, Councillor Barry Rickman said: “Since the extension of the Solent LEP geography to include the whole of the New Forest, our partnership with the LEP has strengthened and is flourishing. The New Forest is such a special place – truly unique, with a world-class environment, majestic coastline, and great communities. But we cannot stand still if we want the New Forest to play an active and central role in the future economy, and investment in the A326 will improve people’s lives in our community today, and underpin sustainable economic growth in the future, ensuring our coastal communities of the Waterside remain connected and share in improved prosperity.”
Hampshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, Councillor Rob Humby said: “Our teams have been looking at issues affecting traffic and transport around the Waterside and on the A326 south of Dibden, particularly around capacity and how congestion can be reduced at peak times. I’m pleased to hear funding has been allocated for these improvements, enabling us to work with the Solent LEP to bring forward a number of improvements, including increasing capacity at eight junctions and the installation of a new walking and cycling route, improving access for communities to areas of employment and education, while supporting the economic prosperity of the area.”