Gloucestershire County Council has campaigned for many years for a solution, and in December 2014 the government announced that it would develop a scheme to connect the two dual carriageway sections of the A417 the ‘missing link’ near Birdlip. The scheme will take into account both the environmental sensitivity of the site and the importance of the route to the local economy.
Highways England has started to develop proposals for the scheme with the intention that it will be ready to start construction as early as possible in the next Road Investment Strategy Period which starts in 2020.
The scheme objectives are
1. Safe and reliable network:
to create a high quality resilient and reliable route that resolves current and predicted traffic problems
2. Improving the environment:
to minimise and mitigate negative impacts whilst maximising opportunities for landscape and natural environment enhancement and biodiversity improvements.
3. Community benefits:
to provide the local community with better connectivity, reduced adverse traffic impacts, and to maximise opportunities for enhancement and mitigation for cultural and historical assets of the area.
4. Supporting economic growth:
to contribute towards growth in regional jobs and prosperity by the provision of reliable journeys.
What happens next
Highways England is currently identifying possible route options that have the potential to improve the A417 between Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout.
Highways England will assess these route options in terms of improved traffic capacity, better journey reliability, road safety, economic growth opportunities, community access and environmental considerations. The assessment will also take into account affordability and practical constraints of the route options against the scheme objectives, budget and timescale.
To help inform this process Highways England will survey noise, agriculture, soil, landscape and views, ecology and air quality.
Highways England is also holding regular meetings with key stakeholders, including Gloucestershire County Council, other local authorities and environmental bodies, to help inform the route options development process.
Once the assessment process is complete, Highways England will hold a public consultation to present the shortlisted options to the local community and road users so that you can have your say.
Highways England is aiming to hold the options consultation in winter 2017/18.
The Development Consent Order application process
This scheme is classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) under the Planning Act 2008. As such, Highways England is required to make an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to gain authorisation to construct the scheme.
To obtain this order, Highways England will submit an application to the Planning Inspectorate. The application sets out the design of the new road, the effect on other roads and the land needed for the scheme. All schemes of national significance are legally required to go through extensive consultation before an application is submitted.
Highways England will ask for feedback from the public at regular intervals when planning the scheme. The first opportunity will be at the Options Consultation when Highways England will outline the various options and describe the likely effects and benefits on the local area for each option. Highways England will take into account all the feedback received and use this to prepare a consultation report, which will be made available online and at various information points.