POLICE have been called to unauthorised pony racing by Travellers on the A33 near Micheldever.

A group of around 200 people set up races on the A33 London Road this morning blocking the carriageway and disrupting ordinary traffic.

The southbound carriageway was opened at around 9.30am, but both sides were later closed for safety reasons.

The event was allowed to continue and the road closure between Larkwhistle Farm Road and Popham was finally lifted at around 4.30pm.

Police officers stood by for much of the day at the northbound junction of Larkwhistle Farm Road and London Road and southbound at Woodmancott.

Northbound traffic on the A33 was diverted to Micheldever Station and onto the A303.

The racing in the afternoon was close to Carousel Park, a place for travelling showpeople's winter quarters.

Winchester MP Steve Brine said he had been contacted by many constituents complaining at the disruption and that he had taken it up with the chief constable.

He said: “Unauthorised activity is, clearly, unauthorised. The police need to be fair but firm and uphold the law for the majority. Our roads are not race-tracks. End of story.”

A police spokeswoman said this afternoon: "Road closures are being put in place where necessary as a safety precaution for those at the event and motorists using the road. This is a dynamic situation and we are lifting these road closures whenever possible, please follow the Winchester Twitter account for updates on these."

She said one person had been arrested and a vehicle seized, although details were unavailable. The ROMANSE maps below show the disruption which by 1.45pm had moved north towards Popham.

This afternoon a post on the Winchester police Facebook page said: "As you have seen from our social media posts this morning, there has been a significant police presence at the Micheldever area of the A33.

"This has been in relation to an event being held by members of the Traveller Community which has attracted a number of people. While we appreciate the inconvenience caused, road closures have had to be put in place in order to maintain road safety and prevent serious injury.

"Despite this actions have been taken against those committing road traffic offences and vehicles have been seized and evidence collated in order for action to be taken at a later date by way of court summons."

Hampshire Chronicle:

ROMANSE map of the disruption

Above, ROMANSE map of the disruption at around 11am; and top the situation at 1.45pm

Travellers set up races on this stretch of the A33 and in the past on the nearby A30 because the roads were formerly major routes and are wide and straight but are now lesser-used because the M3 and A303 take most through traffic. The A33 is a former Roman road.

Lightweight traps for the jockeys are attached to the ponies and spectators bet on the outcome of the races.

Winchester Cops tweeted: "The #A33 at #Micheldever is currently closed due to an ongoing police incident. We will provide further updates as and when we are in a position to do so. #WinchesterRural #RoadClosure."

One villager tweeted: "URGENT! Avoid the A33 to Basingstoke, approx 200 men blocking the carriage way with horse racing in both directions. I've called 999 and police en route to rescue my wife who's stuck in her car alone and surrounded by the mob!"

London Road, Micheldever. Scene this monring of pony racing on the road. Photo: Google

London Road, Micheldever. Scene this morning of pony racing on the road. Photo: Google

Police tweeted that the southbound section has been cleared.A similar incident on the A30 near Micheldever Station last August caused widespread anger when scores of Travellers gathered to race ponies.

But both carriageways were later closed because of fears for safety of road users.

A police spokeswoman said today: "We have been made aware of a gathering on the A33 today, 1 May, in relation to unauthorised horse and trap racing.

"We have increased our patrols in the area, and officers will engage with those in attendance and use enforcement action where necessary and proportionate to do so. Our officers will deal with any offences, and will be capturing evidence to enable them to follow up with any incidents not dealt with at the time.

"Please report any incidents to us via 101, or our website. If it is urgent, please phone 999."

More to follow