Closing driving test centre 'makes no sense' say instructors amid five month backlog

WATCH: Rachel Hepworth reports on the controversial closure of the Forest Hills test centre in Townhill Park, after more than 40 years.

Driving instructors in Southampton say a decision to close one of the city's two test centres will cause unnecessary pollution, financial hardship and more stress for new drivers.

The closure of the Forest Hill centre in Townhill Park this week means candidates must now travel across the city to the Maybush test centre in Millbrook, or go further afield to Winchester or Fareham.

Peter Grist, who's been a driving instructor in Southampton for 28 years says he's baffled by the decision.

"It takes half an hour to get across the city to the Maybush area from this side of the city and by the time we've got there we've got to turn round and come back so in order to practice you need a 90 minute or two hour lesson.

"Some people simply can't afford to do that."

He says the decision, made by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency, will also impact residents around the Maybush test centre, with an increase in tests, and more learners practising in the area.

"I can teach someone to drive anywhere,"he told ITV Meridian, "but of course as the test approaches you want students to practice in the area where they'll be tested. You don't want any nasty surprises.

"You wouldn't want to be going through Woodmill for the first time during your test, and it's the same in the east of the city now.

"You can't move for driving instructors over there- it's so busy. When you start getting the new influx from the new tests, it'll be MORE chaotic."

The Maybush test centre has a five month waiting list

He's not the only one with concerns.

People living along Green Lane where the Maybush centre is situated, say it's a nightmare trying to navigate past the high number of learners parked up on the roadside during lessons.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith is angry that local people weren't consulted before the decision was made.

"We ran a petition straight away and nearly 3000 people have signed that because they don't want their test centre to go.

"There's a five month backlog in the other test centre so if you need to do your test and you've got a five, six or seven month wait it just makes the process more stressful.

"People are paying for their tests, they're paying for their licenses it just isn't fair.

"I can see absolutely no justification for it."

A DVSA spokesperson said: "We have made the decision to close the Southampton Forest Hills driving test centre, as there are other nearby centres where the same services can be relocated. "We understand this change may cause an inconvenience for some, but we have worked hard to ensure that there is no change in the number of tests provided to local candidates, and no tests were lost as a result of the closure."It is vital that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than simply learning driving test centre routes."