MORE than 940 people have signed a petition calling for staff at a Hampshire toll bridge to be retained.

Motorists are charged £1 return for using a narrow bridge over the waterway that separates most of Eling from the oldest part of the village.

The future of the keepers was raised at a meeting of Totton and Eling Town Council.

Cllr David Harrison, a member of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, says he was told the council is considering a proposal to replace them with an automated barrier.

But Totton Conservatives claim they are simply looking ways of upgrading the bridge.

Cllr Neville Penman said: "There is no scheme to look at replacing toll keepers with an automatic barrier.

"There is a survey that will be done to look at improving the toll bridge but not with a barrier.

"Automatic Number Plate Recognition was something mentioned by a resident as a possible solution to help the toll keepers. Another suggestion is a permit on the windscreen.

"The most important thing is the safety of the toll keepers."

An online petition calling for the keepers to be retained has been signed by 946 people.

The petition says: "The keepers are a valued part of the community, welcoming visitors and giving the community a centre.

"The automatic barrier across the road at the bridge would cause traffic chaos and would take away the heart of the community."