CIVIC chiefs have unveiled a multi-million-pound project which aims to reduce the impact of a massive £1bn redevelopment scheme.

Critics fear plans to transform the old Fawley power station site will increase "traffic chaos" on the A326, which is already gridlocked at peak periods.

However, an £8m project to upgrade eight junctions, including roundabouts, is set to start next year.

The work will be carried out by Hampshire County Council but the scheme has been initiated by Fawley Waterside Ltd, which owns the former power station and is seeking consent to redevelop the site.

Proposals include around 1,500 homes, plus a large amount of commercial and employment space.

Marchwood Parish Council fears the proposed development will generate a "significant increase" in traffic on the A326, which it says is already operating at full capacity at rush-hour.

Other objectors include Friends of the New Forest, formerly the New Forest Association.

In a letter to the district council the association criticises what it describes as the "very poor" access to what will effectively be a new town.

The letter adds: "The only 'benefits' residents could be expected to enjoy would be even worse traffic chaos and additional gridlock along an already busy and dangerous A326/B3053."

Plans to upgrade the A326 have been brought forward eight years following the Fawley plan and proposals to redevelop other parts of the Waterside area.

It follows a decision by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to help fund the scheme by awarding a grant of more than £5m.

Cllr Rob Humby, the county council’s executive member for transport, said experts had been looking at ways of tackling congestion on the A326.

He added: "I’m pleased to hear that 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."

However, there are no plans to turn the A326 into a dual carriageway.

County councillor David Harrison, who represents Totton and Marchwood, said: "I've not seen any modelling of traffic flows so we are left guessing as to what difference these particular changes will make.

"It looks like the plans involve changes to roundabouts, rather than the addition of carriageways, and we will still have the bottleneck that is the Redbridge causeway."