Gillingham Town Council last night voted to oppose plans to close the main Gillingham to Shaftesbury road completely for a total of more than three weeks to enable gas connection work to go ahead.
Councillors at a meeting of the full council said the plans to close the road between Ham roundabout and Cole Street Lane in part of January and then in February would cause ‘chaos’ and leave the town ‘isolated from the south of Dorset’.
The gas connection work, which is being done as part of the southern expansion of the town, is currently scheduled to take place from 15 January until 30 January and then from 5 February to 16 February, with full 24-hour closure for each period.
The application has been made by contractors Mata Construction Limited to Dorset Council as momentum increases in the southern expansion project, which will eventually see around 2,000 new homes built.
Councillors all accepted the need for the work as part of the new development but questioned whether the work could not be done in less time or with less disruption, and raised concerns about safety and access, including for emergency services.
Councillor Val Pothecary said that people were already ‘fed up to the back teeth’ with recent roadworks in the area.
‘I know it’s difficult and we need the gas but this is excessive. I think it’s untenable frankly,’ she said. ‘We’ve got people trying to bring their children into our fabulous school in Gillingham, how are they going to make it on time? What about the buses that run from Shaftesbury to Gillingham? It creates absolute chaos.’
Councillor Pothecary continued: ‘This really won’t do. We’ve got to come up with some kind of option to help us all out. We have to send the clear message saying we’re really not happy with the present plans.’
Deputy mayor Councillor Roger Weeks said: ‘We need to say as a council that what your plans are, to isolate Gillingham from Shaftesbury and maybe from the south of Dorset, are not acceptable. They are effectively isolating us.
‘The solution isn’t for us to say but we have a duty to our residents to say that this is simply not tenable.’
And Councillor Mark Walden: ‘It’s going to affect one of the most major roads in and out of Gillingham. We must think of some way to address people’s concerns. It’s going to cause chaos.’
Councillors voted to oppose the plan and the application will now be dealt with by Dorset Council.
A spokesperson for Dorset Council told Gillingham News: ‘Dorset Council are currently consulting on an application we have received to close the B3081 Shaftesbury Road, Gillingham.
‘Stakeholders, including Gillingham Town Council, were notified on 22nd November and the consultation period concluded on December 13th.’
Mata Construction said they had no comment.