Miss­ing Link Fears for wildlife as A417 con­sul­ta­tion be­gins

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Leigh BOOBYER Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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

Roger Mort­lock

Pic­ture: High­ways Eng­land

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the pro­posed green bridge over the A417

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