NEW calls have been made for a much-needed footbridge to help give children a safer route home from schools to the Flexford area and other parts of the parish of Ampfield.

The issue was raised at Ampfield's annual parish assembly, amid reminders that there was a long-established need for a footbridge alongside the narrow road bridge over the railway line.

Afterwards, Ampfield's Test Valley Borough Councillor Martin Hatley recalled that when Valley Park was developed, plans were drawn up to replace the existing road bridge with a new and wider one.

The bridge is on a bend and the aim was not only to widen the road and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, but also to straighten it.

Unfortunately, he said, Hampshire County Council was not in a position to meet the cost of a new bridge and the cost of a complete new bridge and money from developers' contributions, which had been earmarked for it, had been used for other purposes.

As a compromise, Councillor Hatley explained there was support for the idea of a pedestrians' and cyclists' bridge alongside the road bridge.

"It was due to be paid for out of developers' contributions, but by the time all the other off-site work had been completed, they couldn't find enough money to pay for the pedestrian bridge either," said Cllr Hatley.

"Basically, when they decided to built west of Knightwood Road, the pedestrian bridge was deemed a priority."

A key aspect, he said, was improving safety for pedestrians, who include numerous pupils at Thornden School, with the bridge linked to a cycleway and footpath to the traffic lights at Hursley.

"The parish council and I succeeded in bringing forward the pedestrians' and cyclists' route to those traffic lights," he said.

But although the need remained for the bridge, he said: "Once again, the county have informed the parish that there are insufficient funds to pay for the bridge out of developers' contributions.

"They have spent the money on other schemes which, I think, have a lower rating. They have gone into other schemes within North Baddesley parish, even though the development has adversely affected the people of the parish of Ampfield."

It was only luck, he said, that no-one had been seriously injured on the bridge and an additional hazard stemmed from the fact that people coming from Valley Park had to cross to the other side of the road to the footpath.

"Baddesley Road, particularly at school times and rush hours, is very busy and the number of cars is increased by the fact that there are parents who insist on driving their children to school because they do not feel it is safe for them to walk or cycle," he said.

Cllr Hatley added that he remained determined to push for the pedestrian bridge.