Hidden agenda behind bypass ‘alliance’?

There is a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph, alleging a “hidden agenda” behind the National Trust’s support for a bypass scheme in west Surrey. The bypass is round a place called Hindhead, the sole remaining “pinch point” on the A3 road from London to Portsmouth. Almost all of the road, from within London to within Portsmouth, is dual or motorway, except the few miles around Hindhead. This stretch involves the spectacular Devil’s Punch Bowl. The bypass involves boring two tunnels under the hill on the other side of the A3 from the DPB. It would also involve closing the present main road, such that anyone coming from London wishing to reach Hindhead or the Punch Bowl would have to go to the other end of the bypass and back on themselves.

I find it somewhat puzzling that the author of this letter thinks that “the consequences of closing the old Portsmouth Road are expected to be a vast increase in visitor numbers to boost the disappointing income from the present National Trust shop at Hindhead”. I suspect that the real consequences will be a reduction in visitors, given that fewer people will get to know about the site. I first got to know about the DPB the way, I suspect, most people do: seeing it through the window of my mother’s car on the way down to Portsmouth. The view from the top deck of a bus or coach must be even more spectacular, something which will become impossible if coach drivers are forced to go through the tunnel and back into Hindhead if they are to serve the village.

Let them keep the main road open, drop the speed limit, impose a weight limit (say, 7.5 tonnes except for access), and install a couple of pedestrian crossings to give people access from the Punch Bowl to the hill. Closing the main road through the area is just a stupid idea.

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