Worldham Parish Council has called for a “major review” of the traffic management plans for Jalsa Salana after local roads were overwhelmed by the annual religious convention’s record turnout last weekend.
Around 50,000 people are believed to have travelled to Oaklands Farm on the B3004 between Alton and Kingsley for the 57th annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from Friday to Sunday.
It was the first time the event has been opened to worshippers internationally since the pandemic, and the record attendance and rainy weather led to muddy conditions and traffic gridlock on and off the site.
Nearby residents were cut off from being able to leave their homes for long periods, and there were reports of frustrated motorists discarding cars and walking to the site, reversing onto the B3004, a national speed limit road, as well as relieving themselves on the sides of roads and in gardens.
Chunks of mud and stones left on the B3004 after worshippers departed at the end of the day has also been blamed for damage to several cars.
The police also closed the B3004 for a short period on Sunday afternoon following a serious collision, although it is unclear if this incident was linked to the event traffic. The Herald has asked the police for more information.
In a statement printed in full below, chair of Worldham Parish Council, Councillor Robin Twinning, said: “The level of disruption this year to the local community and participants was totally unacceptable and Worldham Parish Council is asking that there is a major review of the traffic management plans for the Jalsa Salana.”
Responding to the upset locally, East Hampshire district councillor Adeel Shah, himself a member of the Ahmadiyya community and event organiser, said: “I want to sincerely apologise for the shortcomings and oversights and issues that have been caused.
“Please forgive us for our shortcomings. The weather had caused a lot of mud to congregate on site and cars were getting stuck and this caused traffic and back-logs.
“I understand walking on the road on Kingsley was not safe and this has been and will be addressed.”
County councillor for Alton Rural, Mark Kemp-Gee, has said he is working in conjunction with Binsted, Kingsley and Worldham parish councils to address’ concerns.
Parish council: Local roads cannot cope with the 50,000 visitors
The volume of traffic to this year’s Jalsa Salana had a massive impact on the local community. The local roads and rural lanes were gridlocked, verges damaged and greater than usual littering. Our local road infrastructure could not cope with the 50,000 visitors.
What would normally take residents less than ten minutes to drive from Alton to their home was taking between one and two hours in peak times. Many residents were at times completely cut off from being able to leave or enter their homes. Attendees to the festival were taking four to five hours from London and as a result people were at times invited into residents homes to use the facilities and there were incidents where people relieved themselves on the side of the road and in residents gardens.
The level of disruption this year to the local community and participants was totally unacceptable and Worldham Parish Council is asking that there is a major review of the traffic management plans for the Jalsa Salana.
Cllr Robin Twining
Chair, Worldham Parish Council, speaking on behalf of the parish council