Cotswolds ‘missing link’ bypass delayed after consultation

Traffic on A417Image copyright Highways England
Image caption Part of the A417 at the Air Balloon roundabout near Birdlip is a notorious bottleneck for traffic

Plans to improve a notorious accident blackspot in The Cotswolds have been delayed until 2021.

The A417 dual carriageway, links Gloucester to Cirencester and Swindon, with a bottleneck at the Air Balloon Roundabout near Birdlip.

Highways England has been consulting on a £435m bypass known as the missing link but the National Trust has called for a rethink of the plans.

It is concerned about the extent of ancient woodland which would be lost.

In September 2019, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps allowed the plans for a 3.4 mile (5.5km) stretch of new road, to move to public consultation, with a view to a planning application being submitted later this year.

The National Trust’s decision not to allow a ‘green bridge’, which would allow walkers and horse riders to cross the new road at Crickley Hill to be built on its land, means the plans must now be re-examined and consulted on again, said Cotswold MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Image copyright Highways England
Image caption The route would be 3.4 miles long

“Quite late in the day the National Trust has decided that they don’t want the green bridge or indeed any other structure on their land,” the MP said.

“An intricate part of this scheme is linking the Cotswold Way with the Gloucestershire Way footpaths and bridleways so that people don’t have to walk across roads.

“So Highways England now have to find other positions for this bridge, or bridges. That in itself is going to require another public consultation.”

The National Trust said that while it recognised the importance of improving road safety on the A417, its role was to protect the “much-loved” landscape nearby.

“It was only as design detail developed that the extent of ancient woodland which would need to be cleared emerged,” a spokesperson said.

“We understand that Highways England is responding to a range of feedback from the consultation and this is not the only element of the scheme that needs to be rethought.

“This is an important opportunity to create a lasting solution that benefits both the environment and local communities.”

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