Conservation groups raise concerns that the proposed A417 road scheme is at odds with Government’s new 25 Year Plan for the Environment

Thursday 15th February 2018

The National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have today raised significant concerns about Highways England proposed options to improve the A417 at the Air Balloon roundabout.

They have called on the road scheme to have better funding so that Highways England are able to deliver their vision for a scheme that brings benefits for the environment, for tourism, for the local community and those who use the road.

The charities are concerned that the options currently presented do not deliver on Highways England’s own design principles or the Government’s own 25 Year Environment Plan, launched in January by the Prime Minister.

In a joint statement Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Jonny Loose, General Manager, National Trust said:

‘We fully accept the existing road needs improving but while we were encouraged to see a robust vision for a landscape-led road scheme, we do not believe the route options currently presented reflect the vision for a scheme that is appropriate within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’

‘Highways England has shown that a tunnel here could be the best solution. We believe a huge opportunity has been missed to seek the public’s opinion on the best of the tunnel options and call for an additional consultation so that a tunnel option is back on the table’.

‘The two options for consultation represent a missed opportunity as neither option present opportunities to re-connect the wider landscape. We understand that value for money is important but this is a nationally significant landscape highly dependent on visitors who value the countryside of the Cotswolds. The economic assessment of the route has not fully considered the wider and longer term social and economic benefits of delivering a landscape led scheme’

‘We ask that the Department for Transport look again at the funding for this road scheme so that an environmentally damaging scheme that is completely at odds with promises of the government’s own recently announced 25 year Environment Plan is not delivered.’

‘The current options risk causing significant harm to the landscape; being more visibly intrusive, severing links between delicate wildlife habitats and increasing noise and air pollution. At this stage, there is no evidence of how this harm will be reduced, nor appreciation for the level of mitigation needed to balance the extensive new infrastructure in these proposals.’