The Alresford Bypass (1985-6)

scan111Construction work on the Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton Bypass started on 17 June 1985, and the official opening of the completed road took place on 17 December 1986. To commemorate this, the HCC published an information booklet, which contained most of the information presented here, and some of the photos. A further personal collection of photos taken on site throughout the construction work is available on the photographs within my FlickR website, on http://www.flickr.com/photos/83468450@N03/collections/72157632679229184.

The Hampshire County Development Plan foresaw the need for a bypass to take the A31 around Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, in 1955. In 1961 a review of this plan placed the bypass in a list for construction during the period 1966-1981.

Preliminary design work started in 1972, but was halted in 1974 by the local Government reorganization. In 1979 the scheme was scheduled for construction in 1982-83. Planning at the Alresford Golf course started in 1983, to alter the course layout and create an extension, allowing the greens to mature before work started. The last Tournament was played on the old course on 16 June 1985, and work started on the bypass the next day.

The technicalities

The information booklet produced by Hampshire County Council provides a beautiful aerial view on the front cover, plus a plan of the bypass route, both shown here. The most interesting visual aspects relate to the bridges…

scan112On the bypass, the Ladycroft Bridge spans the Tichborne stream of the Itchen, Tichborne lane and part of the SSSI at the end of Spring Gardens, in Alresford. It is 93m long and 11m high, in 3 pre-cast U-shaped spans, supported on cylindrical columns and spread foundations to abutments, under the water table of the river.scan150

The open spans and slim supports allow views of the valley to be seen through the bridge. Eighteen pre-cast concrete beams, weighing up to 40 tons each, came from Nottinghamshire, and were all lifted into place by crane in a 24 hour period.

The Tichborne Down footbridge has a 27m span, and was cast in reinforced concrete on site. It links Alresford to the “Wayfarer’s Walk” long distance bridleway.

Other bridges were made from cast on site reinforced concrete structures, the Cheriton Road/Jacklyn’s Lane bridge having a voided main span, a 21.6m length.

The total scheme cost was £4.5m, from which the Contract cost was £3.4m. Of this, the structures cost £850k, and drainage added £230k. The bypass is 5.5km long.

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Environmental aspects

So after 30 years, we know what the bypass looks like today, what did they intend to create?

First, the photos on FlickR show off what was obvious then, they sited the roundabout to avoid the fine copse of beech trees at the end of the dual carriageway. Also the roundabout is set low down, so it is only really visible from the east.

scan157The Ladycroft bridge is built to be sensitive to the SSSI fed by the spring into the marsh in that area, and has side slopes of only 1:5; the embankments are only 11m high.

South of Alresford the 0.75miles of cutting shields the traffic from the houses on Tichborne Down and Spring Gardens. This is helped by the earth embankments, or mounds, which hide the traffic, and the noise, but retain the views. 49,000 trees and shrubs were planted.

scan078The verges and side slopes all along the bypass were sown with a ryegrass-free seed mix, with 2% wild flower seed. In selected areas the topsoil depth was restricted, and a 10% wild flower seed mix was used, to re-establish colonies of wild flowers indigenous to chalk downland.

Even the environment was kind to the contractors, they only lost 15.5 working days because of heavy rain – this occurred in August 1985!! Interestingly, HCC report that rain only fell on 25 of the working days in the 18 month contract.

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Go to the FlickR website to see a large series of photographs during construction.

And did the bypass solve the town’s traffic problems? Your views would be welcomed, but there was a recent example worth highlighting, when a steam tender on the back of a lorry overtook a steam locomotive on the back of another lorry going down West Street! Well almost…

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