Missing Link Fears for wildlife as A417 consultation begins
THESE are the ambitious £435 million plans to transform a notorious bottleneck in Gloucestershire.
The proposal for the A417 will see the last stretch of three miles of single carriageway on the 31-mile A417/A419 route upgraded to a dual carriageway.
The A417 runs between Gloucester, Cirencester and Swindon and is used by many motorists travelling between London and the West Midlands as a shortcut between the M4 and the M5.
The existing stretch of road between Brockworth bypass and the Air Balloon roundabout will be lowered and would be accessed only by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, and will connect to a new garden bridge overlooking Gloucestershire.
Both the Air Balloon roundabout and Cowley roundabout are to be removed as part of the scheme.
A new sloping lane will be introduced leading up the A417 for vehicles to overtake heavy goods vehicles safely.
There will be improved access to public footpaths, including the Cotswold Way National Trail and the Gloucestershire Way.
Option 30 – the name of the scheme – also sets out how the new road would have a 70mph speed limit and a short road connecting Birdlip to the A417.
Members of the public can have their say on the detailed plans in a consultation which opened last Friday and will include several public events.
Highways England announced the preferred route for the scheme, known as Option 30, in March.
The project is scheduled for completion for 2024.
The scheme is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Highways England says it aims to complement the character of the surrounding landscape.
However, Cotswold Wildlife Trust said the proposals “overlook some of the most threatened species in this landscape.”
Responding to the launch of the public consultation on the A417, Roger Mortlock, chief executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “Highways England has promised that the ‘missing link’ road scheme will be landscape-led, repairing historic damage to the landscape and the wildlife it supports.
“Despite positive engagement, the designs released today are insufficient to prove that it will.”
He added: “The proposed land bridge is welcome, but not wide enough to deliver connectivity for wildlife. And there are no assurances that sufficient budget will be allocated to ensure that commitments to protect and restore wildlife habitats are any more than lip service.”
A Highways England representative told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the scheme is now in consultation process and “all feedback is welcome”.
Highways England senior project manager Mike Goddard said: “The upgrade will bring many benefits, including helping to boost growth and prosperity by making journeys more reliable and improving connectivity between the Midlands and the South West, and more predictable journey times; it will also improve safety for drivers and reduce air pollution from queuing traffic.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “We are committed to making sure the community and all road users reap the benefits of any upgrade to the route – which will support the local economy, ease congestion and pollution and, of course, will factor in the area’s landscape, environment and history.”
The proposed land bridge is welcome, but not wide enough to deliver connectivity for wildlife
An artist’s impression of the proposed green bridge over the A417