Downton Road closure – a second lockdown for Harnham?

Resident expresses concern in an open letter…

Dear Sir/Madam,
I fear that Harnham is facing a second lockdown – not because of coronavirus, but because of the planned closure of Downton Road from the Harnham roundabout to the Britford turn.
You may have seen the roadside notices that appeared last week, stating that the road will be fully closed, 24 hours a day in the week, for most of the month of September.
I live in the Rowbarrow estate, and I’m really concerned about how this closure will affect my family, my neighbours and the wider community. I’m also really puzzled about why this work is starting on the very day that most secondary pupils return to school, when we have just finished a period of 5 months of very low traffic volumes when the road could have been closed with little disruption. We can all agree that Downton Road is badly in need of repair, but it has been for at least a couple of years – why now?
The official diversion takes traffic down towards Bournemouth, and is estimated to take 1 hour 21 mins. I suspect that buses might have to use this route as it is an official suggestion, but local traffic certainly won’t, and will turn Odstock into a rat run, which I anticipate will become gridlock in fairly short order. Rowbarrow estate residents will effectively be trapped, by roadworks on one side and traffic jams on the other, and as the Wiltshire Council website notes footpaths will be shut as well, we will actually have less freedom than in lockdown.
I have two teenagers, one attending Burgate and the other Wyvern St Edmunds in Laverstock. At the moment Salisbury Reds can’t say what the school bus routes will be, though they hope to have some information available week commencing 24th August. I’m really concerned that the school buses, always overcrowded and where any form of social distancing will be impossible, will also take much longer than usual to reach their destinations due to the traffic jams/diversions. If my fears are correct, this is simply not an acceptable risk to health.
However, the alternative is for me to take two teenagers in the car, to 2 schools in opposite directions, through congestion/an 80 minute diversion, to arrive in a 10 minute school arrival slot – it’s just not possible. The beginning of the school term is going to be a stressful transition in any case, but this road closure seems to present me with impossible choices. Am I going to have to choose which child is educated in September? Or will neither be able to get back to formal education? Or do I just try to convince myself that social distancing is finished for under 18s and that’s ok?
However, my domestic concerns are small fry – will ambulances be able to reach the hospital given the additional traffic on Odstock Road? Will the Nisa shop be able to receive deliveries? Many elderly people rely on this shop to supply their basic needs.
I have contacted Wiltshire Council about the road closure, who passed me on to the contractor, Atkins. I have asked them for their views on the timing of the work, and for a copy of their impact assessment, but have had no response so far.
Is it just me?
RC

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