Revised plans unveiled for Gloucestershire's A417 Missing Link, but environmentalists still concerned

  • WATCH: The newly unveiled proposals for the A417 'Missing Link' road

Revised plans have been released and a new consultation is underway to improve a stretch of road in Gloucestershire known as the 'Missing Link', but environmentalists are still concerned.

The single-lane carriageway of the A417 between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout is a notorious traffic hotspot - causing drivers to use surrounding roads not built for heavy congestion.

Proposals to build a £435 million dual-carriageway connecting the M4 at Swindon to the M5 in Gloucestershire were delayed in 2019 after the first round of consultations, partly prompted by environmental concerns.

Now a series of updated designs have been unveiled and Highways England has launched another consultation to get feedback from members of the public - but local environmental groups say the plans still raise concerns.

The boomerang-like road is among the many proposals being consulted on. Credit: Highways England

What are the new plans?

Among the revised proposals are two pedestrian crossings over the A417.

One of them - Cotswold Way - is a boomerang-like bridge and would link the Cotswold Way National Trail and Gloucestershire Way to Cold Slad Lane on the other side.

The Gloucestershire Way crossing would be planted with hedgerows to help wildlife cross safely.

Other updates:

  • change in gradient of the A417 as it climbs the escarpment from 7% to 8%, reducing the depth of the cutting to a maximum of 15 metres. This would have the effect of reducing material excavation and construction impact

  • access to Barrow Wake car park from the B4070 with a realigned route between Birdlip and Shab Hill

  • removal of vehicular access from Cowley junction to Cowley via Cowley Lane - would remain open to private property, walkers, cyclists, horse riders and disabled users

  • improved access with new connections for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, including disabled users

  • proposals for the replacement of common land and reduced environmental impact as a result of the new designs

A new visual of the Gloucestershire Way crossing has also been unveiled. Credit: Highways England

Why does it need to be done?

Highways England says the 'Missing Link' causes problems for road users and those who live or work in the area.

According to the proposal, congestion is "frequent and unpredictable" while "poor visibility" on the road causes too many serious accidents.

It also claims that improving the stretch will make it safer, support the economy, ease traffic and reduce air pollution.

Michael Goddard, Senior Project Manager for the scheme, said:

Why is there opposition?

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, along with the Cotswolds Conservation Board and National Trust, said while the plans are an improvement, there are still "areas of concern".

After the original plans were released, they said the scheme would result in a "net loss" of wildlife habitat and were "not conducive with tackling the climate and ecological emergencies".

In a joint statement following the unveiling of the improved plans (on Tuesday 13 October), the organisations said they still have some concerns.

They also believe "high priority habitats" remain at risk and recommend "careful design and mitigation" to reduce any habitat and wildlife losses.

The statement concluded: " We support the need to resolve safety and congestion issues but believe equal consideration should be given to reducing and mitigating environmental impacts as to engineering design".

Members of the public have until Thursday 12 November 2020 to submit their thoughts on the new designs.

Visit the Highways England website to find out more about the scheme and how to join the consultation.