ROMSEY residents are being warned to prepare for "gridlock" and traffic "chaos" this weekend when tens of thousands of motorway drivers are diverted through the town.

Romsey will be one of the main diversion routes used when the M27 closes between junction 3 and junction 4 this weekend, to allow Highways England to replace Romsey Road Bridge.

Light eastbound traffic heading towards the M3 will be diverted past the Plaza Theatre and along the A3090, Winchester Road.

And westbound traffic from both the M27 and the M3 will be diverted through the same route, in the direction of Ower.

Meanwhile, heavy traffic is set to be diverted via the A27 at North Baddesley.

That announcement has sparked warnings from town officials, who say they expect Romsey to be "gridlocked" this weekend.

Romsey's Town Centre Manager, Mark Edgerley said: "I would expect the traffic to be completely gridlocked given all the motorway traffic will converge on Romsey.

"If traffic chaos is as bad as we expect it will have a negative impact on local businesses who have already suffered six months of major roadworks and road closures in the town centre.

"It will be good when everything is finished and we can get our Town back and be inviting visitors back to enjoy our historic centre and many cafes and restaurants and browse our excellent retailers

Mr Edgerley, who described Highways England's decision making process as "poor", added: ""We accept that the works need to be undertaken given condition of old bridges, these works are much delayed so have moved into what should be a busy time for Romsey.

"There are numerous events on including a Schools Concert in the Abbey and Romsey Singers event in the Town Hall Friday.

"There are smaller events on Saturday and a Romsey Chamber Orchestra Event in Town Hall on Sunday."

Romsey Town Council chair, councillor Janet Burnage, also said she expected the "traffic chaos" and "gridlock" on the town's roads across the weekend.

It comes after Highways England announced the diversion route for the closure, which begins at 10pm on Friday.

Westbound traffic will be via M3 junction 11 down the A3090 through Romsey and down the A36 to M27 junction 2.

Lorries will be diverted off at M27 junction 5, along the A27 to Chilworth roundabout, then along the A27 through North Baddesley, down the A3057, onto the M271 and re-joining the M27 at junction 3.

Travelling Eastbound, light vehicles on the M27 originating from the A31 heading to London/M3 will be diverted off at M27 junction 2 to use the A36 and the A3090 through Romsey towards M3 junction 11.

HGVs on the M27 coming from the A31 heading for London will be diverted off the above route at Romsey, onto the A27 and the A33 to join the M3 northbound.

Traffic of any type on the M27 coming from the A31 and heading towards M27 east will be diverted at junction 3 to head up the M271 and A3057 northbound.

Traffic will then be diverted, before it reaches Romsey, to join the eastbound A27, heading through North Baddesley to re-join the M27 at junction 5.

The closure, which is expected to last until 5am on Monday, July 1, is to allow engineers to install the new Romsey Road Bridge.

It follows a closure in September, to allow the demolition of part of the old bridge, which highways chiefs say is nearing the end of its life.

The new bridge weighs 1,069 tonnes – as much as 15 space shuttles - and will be lifted into place using self-propelled modular transporters, which are remote-controlled, self-powered low-loader lorries.

Highways England project manager Andrew Winson said: "Closing the M27 will inevitably cause disruption, so I strongly urge drivers to plan ahead and avoid the area if possible.”