The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have announced their intention to close the Forest Hills Drive driving test centre on 10th April. This centre came into use in 1980 and for over forty years has been providing driving tests for people predominantly on the east of Southampton. Its closure will be a big blow to Southampton.

No one has been consulted about this closure, with local driving instructors informed last month that the decision had been made and they had no choice but to in future book tests through the centre in Maybush. This is unacceptable and in my view is the wrong decision by the DVSA.

Those currently looking to book a driving test, will be aware of the huge backlog caused by the pandemic. I’ve been told by local driving instructors that the average wait is now five months for a driving test. Unfortunately, I do not believe all these tests can be moved to Maybush without impacting on those who have already booked a test at Forest Hills or were hoping to do so in the future. This will make an already bad situation even worse.

It makes sense for people to learn to drive in the area they are familiar with, and the Forest Hills centre provides a good location for this. The Maybush centre is five miles away from Forest Hills. People on the east will need to be familiar with this area if tests move there. This means people will be travelling to Maybush not just on test day but will have to travel there for lessons. In doing so, creating more congestion on our roads, and generating more pollution. This is not the solution our city needs.

I’m sure many of you will feel that already the east of the city lacks some of the amenities that can be found in the centre and west of the city. It is just not right for more facilities on the east to close.

I’m told the lease on Forest Hills is due to expire. The DVSA have not told me if they have looked to extend the lease. My guess is they have not. I am calling on the DVSA to extend the lease on Forest Hills, or to look for another alternative location on the east if they believe this site is too expensive.

Please add your name to the petition to keep the centre open. I will present this to the DVSA.