ROADWORKS on a 250ft stretch of road will send drivers on a staggering 18-mile diversion for several weeks.

Christchurch Road in Ringwood, which is a busy route in the town, will be closed for 16 days while engineers carry out drainage improvements.

The planned diversion route for vehicles sends drivers across the Hampshire/Dorset border and into Christchurch, which is already clogged up with traffic on a daily basis. Roads in the diversion include the A31, A338, A35, B3347, B3073, and B3047.

Taking the alternative route suggested by Hampshire County Council (HCC) took more than half an hour to complete in the early afternoon. Engineers will be carrying out the improvements between the junctions with New Street and Monmouth Close.

Work will be carried out between 7am and 7pm from Saturday, June 9, but the road will remain permanently closed throughout the duration of the drainage works due to the required excavations and subsequent diversion of pedestrians off the footway and into the road.

Ringwood mayor Tim Ward said the town council had pressed HCC to work on one side of the road at a time to allow traffic lights to be in operation, but the highway authority said the closure was the only option.

He said: “We are told the work is absolutely necessary. It is such a short distance they are working on. You could stand on one side and wave to someone at the other end, but you can’t drive a car through.

“The roads around Moortown and Crow are not suitable for HGVs. Larger vehicles will have to take this diversion, but it is going to be dreadful.

“It is inevitable people are going to cut up through Moortown Lane and Crow Lane, and that is going to cause other issues.”

“We can only rely on their word that there is no alternative option.”

Cllr Rob Humby, HCC’s executive member for environment and transport, said the essential work was part of the authority’s Operation Resilience, which is designed to make Hampshire’s roads more resilient to the impact of severe weather and heavy traffic.

He added: “In order to carry out these works safely – for both the workforce and the travelling public, and as quickly as possible, we will need to temporarily close the road while these improvements are made. Signed diversion routes direct traffic onto similar roads so that large and heavy vehicles, in particular, have a signed route to follow which avoids smaller roads that may be unsuitable. The signed routes also take into account other works in the area, such as utility works.”

Following the drainage works, Christchurch Road will be resurfaced between the roundabouts with Castleman Way and Wellworthy Way over three nights from Monday, June 25 between 8pm and 6am.