Published on Thursday, 23rd August 2012

It’s hard to believe now, but back in the late 60s and early 70s urban road building was all the rage. Every city worthy of the name had a plan for a network of fast dual carriageways and flyovers, which town hall officials seriously believed would be built. Of course popular opposition surged once the first few examples were completed and people could see what living next to a motorway was actually like. That, combined with rising house prices (and hence compulsory purchase costs), as well as rising construction costs, meant that by 1975 the age of the new urban expressway was already nearly at an end. Still it’s interesting to look back at what might have been.

While no-one from that era remains in the city’s Transport Department, we do still have a masterplan map. Dating from around 1973 (*), it shows not only the now familiar M27/M275, but also all the other routes that never made it off the drawing board.

The map as a whole is rather large, so this page just shows the interesting bits. Click here for a full high resolution version of the map

  • City Centre

  • Tipner

  • Eastern Road


  • Locksway Road

Let’s take a look at the key proposals:

Holbrook Road route

The biggest never-built route was a continuation of the M275 along the line of the Church Street/Holbrook Road route. A new road on this route was built later of course, but to a much lower standard. The 1970s map shows dual carriageways and flyovers along the length of the route with the road continuing all the way to Albert Road.

It explains why the Bradford junction roundabout is so big. 

Eastern Road

The northern part of the Eastern Road was to be upgraded to full dual carriageway with flyovers. The southern part was to follow a completely different line that would have linked up with Winston Churchill Avenue. Departing from the old road just south of Portsmouth College, it would have hugged the coast, crossing open space that is now the University’s Langstone campus before turning in and following a line along the old canal just off Locksway Road. At that time, there must have been some open land there as the houses closest to the canal date from the 1980s. There would still have had to be extensive demolition though.

The road would then have continued broadly along the line of Goldsmith Avenue. It is because of the safeguarding of this route that some of the industrial units around Fratton station remain to this day.

Seafront link

The south-eastern most exit on the Eastern Road, located somewhere near The Thatched House pub, was to be a flyover junction connecting to a spur that would have crossed the creek and joined up with Henderson Road on land now known as the Pony Paddock. Again you can see signs of this in the Social Services building that was not developed until long after the plan was abandoned and in the wide verge and planted area on Henderson Road that was intended to be used to allow the road to be widened to provide a fast link all the way on to the Esplanade.

Hope Street and Tipner

A couple of schemes currently under consideration were first proposed forty years ago! An extra junction on the M275 was planned from the first, but had to be abandoned because it broke Ministry of Transport rules on the minimum distance between junctions. Also Hope Street is shown as a dual carriageway, which is really all the current city centre road improvement proposals will achieve.

Other dual carriageways

That’s most of it. The only other significant proposals were a flyover at the former Johnson and Johnson roundabout (which would probably explain why it was so big) and a plan to dual Twyford Avenue.

The authorities in Portsmouth did quite well in getting their proposals through – certainly more of the plan was completed than in most other cities and I’m glad they managed it. Just try imagining Portsmouth without the M275. That said, some of the proposals from all those years ago went too far.

(*)  Dating the map.

I used to live in Farmlea Road, which according to the deeds of my house was built in 1971 and is shown on the map. The map also shows the Southern Girls Grammar School (Priory School since 1974) and the Southern Boys Grammar School (which became Great Salterns School in 1975 and is now Portsmouth College). The M275 and M27 are both marked as under construction, with work on the latter starting in 1973 and completing in 1976. I also recall hearing once that the roads plan was scaled back soon after responsibility transferred to Hampshire County Council after the local government re-organisation of 1974. Putting that altogether and my best guess is the map dates from 1973 or thereabouts.

 Tags : Roads, Local History, Transport