A417 Missing Link
A landscape-led highways scheme that will deliver a safe and resilient free-flowing road while conserving and enhancing the special character of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our scheme will improve the connection between two dual carriageway sections of the A417 at Brockworth and Cowley.
In November 2022, Transport Minister Huw Merriman MP approved the major road upgrade to the A417 Missing Link scheme between Gloucester and Swindon, which will boost regional economies and transform journeys for millions of people. The Development Consent Order means we can now take action to improve this much needed stretch of road to make it safer and reduce traffic congestion and the knock-on effect of rat running in local villages. This will make it easier for people to get around, help support regional growth and improve life in local communities.
Construction will start on the project in early 2023, and during the start of the year we'll be preparing for this. You may see people in high-visibility jackets out and about undertaking surveys and site visits.
Kier also continues to work very closely with key stakeholders to finalise the detailed design of the scheme, namely the crossings and embankments. It has held several collaborative sessions with key stakeholders, who have been able to input and influence the final design.
You can find the latest updates for the project at the top of the website, which we'll keep updated as work continues.
The A417/A419 provides an important route between Gloucester and Swindon that helps connect the Midlands/North to the South of England. It's an alternative to the M5/M4 route via Bristol. The Missing Link itself is a three-mile stretch of single-lane carriageway on the A417 between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout in Gloucestershire.
The Missing Link causes many problems for road users and those who live or work in the area. Congestion can be frequent and unpredictable, so some motorists divert onto local roads to avoid tailbacks. This causes difficulties for neighbouring communities and local roads were not built to accommodate so much traffic. Poor visibility and other factors also mean that accidents, many of which are serious, occur frequently along this section of road.
Our aim is to improve this section of the A417 with a scheme that includes:
- 3.4 miles of new dual carriageway connecting the existing A417 Brockworth bypass with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley
- the section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout would follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor
- a new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip
- a new junction would be included near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout
- the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed. We would convert some lengths of this existing road into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents.
Our scheme to improve the A417 Missing Link will bring significant benefits to the local area. We spoke to residents, local businesses and political leaders to find out the problems they face and how our scheme could benefit the south west.
Our scheme has four key objectives:
- Transport and safety: to reduce delays, create a free-flowing road network and improve safety along this stretch of the A417
- Environment and heritage: to reduce the impact on the landscape, natural and historic environment of the Cotswolds and, where possible, enhance the surrounding environment
- Community and access: to reduce queuing traffic and pollution, improve access for local people to the strategic road network, and support residents and visitors’ enjoyment to the countryside
- Economic growth: to help boost growth and prosperity by making journeys more reliable and improving connectivity
Reducing the impact of the A417 Missing Link on local communities
Our plans for the A417 Missing Link project have now been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for consent.
When built, the new road will reduce queuing traffic and pollution, improve access for local people to the strategic road network and support residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the countryside.
The improvements we’re making will, however, impact local people during construction and once the new road is open. We’ve carried out many surveys and assessments to see what these impacts might be and how we can avoid or reduce them where possible. We’ve looked at things like local access, air quality, noise and visual impacts, which were the key concerns raised during public consultation last year.
Take for example the village of Cowley, from feedback we received during our consultation in autumn 2021, we know that there are some concerns about noise and visual impact of the new road, as well as an increase in traffic on local roads following the addition of Cowley junction. We’ve done lots of things to help reduce the impact at Cowley and the impact on the village will be reduced compared to our previous proposals, for example:
- we’ve positioned the new road on lower ground, so that it and the Cowley and Stockwell bridges aren’t so visible
- we’ve restricted motor vehicle access to Cowley from Cowley junction to avoid rat running. Local residents, walkers, cyclists and horse riders will still have access.
- we’ll create earth embankments with plants and trees on either side of the new road to help reduce noise and help hide the road
- we’ll use a low-noise road surfacing
- we’ll manage construction activities and associated traffic very carefully to reduce impacts and disruption to local people and visitors
Cross section showing landscape bunds used to screen views of the road
This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully this gives you an idea of the types of things we are doing across the project to carefully consider the potential impacts on local communities, businesses and visitors to the area.
For more detailed information on how we will reduce the impact of construction, you can read our Construction Traffic Management Plan and Environmental Management Plan that were submitted as part of our application.
Survey work on the A417
As part of our design work we carried out surveys to see what impacts the project may have on the local area and how we could reduce them. We looked at things like local air quality, biodiversity, archaeology, and noise.
Using information from our surveys we made some changes to our design, this included:
- adding add new wildlife crossings so wildlife can safely get across the road once it’s built
- building man-made embankments on either side of the new road to help reduce noise
- changing the gradient of the road at Crickley Hill to reduce the road’s visual impact
You can find out more by watching our short video about the survey work which we filmed earlier this year.
We’re committed to doing everything in our power to reduce the impact of the new road on local people and the important landscape of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Our survey results and plans for reducing the effects of the new road are also included in our Environmental Statement which we submitted as part of our Development Consent Order.
Will the new road be future proof?
We’ve recently submitted a Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate, which outlines our plans to upgrade the A417 Missing Link in the Cotswolds.
This project will create a safer and more reliable road and reduce traffic jams and rat running in the local area.
During consultation in autumn 2020, many people asked if the scheme was future proof: would it be able to cope with any future traffic increases.
The answer to this question is yes. We use the latest computer software to calculate how many vehicles will use the road in the future and then design roads and junctions appropriately.
At the start of projects, we collect lots of data. We count traffic close to the new road and further afield. We also use things like anonymous mobile phone data to show where people are travelling to and from. This allows us to understand how many vehicles are using local roads and why.
We then run this data through computer software, approved by the Government, to check that it represents the real world and then use it as the starting point to forecast future traffic numbers.
We calculate future traffic numbers using information given to us by the local council and the Department for Transport. We’re expecting the Government to update this data to take into account changing habits as a result of Covid-19.
This process is known as traffic modelling and has influenced the design of the scheme, for example the size of Ullenwood and Shab Hill junctions. It also helps us to work out the new road’s impact on air quality and local roads and how we can reduce these impacts.
We’ve used the model to forecast future road traffic accidents and expect to see fewer fatal or serious accidents once the new road is built.
We also know from our calculations that in general, there will be less traffic on local roads after the road is built. This is because there will be less congestion on the A417 so less reason for drivers to use alternative local routes.
You can read more about local journeys on pages 7 and 8 of Moving forward: response to public consultation in 2020 and next steps.
During construction, we appreciate there may be a short-term temporary impact on the way people access and enjoy the area. However, in the longer term, the scheme will improve safety and journey times, which will benefit the local and regional economy and make the area a more attractive place to explore and visit.
To help minimise disruption during construction we will:
- keep the existing road open during construction while we build the new road alongside
- use the new road to transport material as soon as sections are built, which will reduce traffic on the existing road
- reuse excavated materials from the existing landscape wherever possible
- carefully plan and manage our roadworks to ensure we maintain safety at all times
Unlocking economic growth for Gloucestershire and beyond
The A417/A419 provides an important route between Gloucester, Cheltenham and Swindon that helps connect the West Midlands and the north to the south of England via the M5 and M4 motorways.
As things stand, local businesses have told us that congestion and delays on the A417 are costing them money. Journey time reliability is currently as low as 63.4%. Staff sometimes struggle to get to work on time, deliveries are frequently delayed and its difficult for businesses to plan and schedule deliveries or keep to appointment times.
By making the section of the A417 between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout into a dual carriageway, it will be able to take more cars, congestion and delays will be significantly decreased and journey times will be more reliable. We’re predicting that the new road will reduce the average journey times between Cirencester and the M5 by up to 30% westbound and 20% eastbound.
This will help local businesses grow and prosper, and in turn create jobs. This supports the aspirations of local councils and key business organisation, who have identified transport infrastructure improvements as essential to stimulate regional economic growth.
The new road will also make it easier for people to visit the area. Already, the county welcomes over 16 million visitors who spend more than £1.1 billion. The tourism industry also employs over 26,000 people – 8% of the region’s workforce. This would grow even further if access to the area was improved.
Improving road links will also support regional housing growth. There are lots more houses and major mixed-use development sites (housing and business) planned for the region, which will result in more cars, but will also require the A417 to operate reliably.
In terms of monetary benefits, we predict that there will be:
- significant accident reduction benefits valued at £65 million
- journey time savings valued at £314 million
- business user journey time reliability benefits of £40 million
- commuting and other user journey time reliability benefits of approximately £31 million
- significant wider economic benefits totalling £140 million
You can find out more about what benefits the A417 Missing Link project will bring my watching our short video below which we filmed a few years ago.
Biodiversity on the A417 Missing link
The A417 runs through the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which is celebrated for its rich, varied, and high-quality landscape.
We’ve carefully designed the new road to reduce its impact on the AONB’s special landscape, wildlife, and plants. We’re doing a lot to avoid, reduce or offset any effects of the scheme – this is known as mitigation.
As part of the mitigation for this scheme and to improve biodiversity, we’re planting lots of new and good-quality woodland, grassland, trees and hedgerows that are local to the area. These will help preserve and create additional habitats for local wildlife in the area.
We know from the large number of surveys that we’ve done, what plants and trees grow in the AONB. We’ll plant similar species to ensure they match and grow well in the area.
We’ve worked together with environmental stakeholders, including Natural England, and will create more important habitats than we’re taking away during construction.
Some of the positive things we are doing to benefit the area include creating:
- 41 hectares of new limestone grassland
- 61 miles of new hedgerows
- 34 hectares of new scrubland such as small bushes and trees
- 57 hectares of new, native woodland
- 5 miles of new Cotswold drystone walls
The habitats we’ll be creating have been carefully designed to help wildlife move around more easily. For example, we've made the Gloucestershire Way crossing more wildlife friendly by adding more grassland and hedgerow. These habitats will be separated from the footpath allowing bats, badgers and other wildlife to safely cross the road.
We’ll also be adding new areas of limestone grassland and trees either side of the new Gloucestershire Way crossing. This means wildlife, especially invertebrates such as rare beetles and butterflies, will be able to move easily between areas of similar habitat at Crickley Hill and Barrow Wake Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
To add to this, we’ll be building an underpass for bats. This will allow them to safely cross from one side of the A417 to another. We'll also create several tunnels under the road, known as a ‘wildlife culvert’ for badgers to safely and easily move around the area.
We will be planting road verges with species-rich grassland and native wildflowers. This will create ideal conditions for these grasslands to thrive and grow, help preserve and create new habitats for local wildlife, and help alleviate things such as noise from the road.
We’re continuing to work with environmental stakeholders and local landowners to explore further opportunities for improving biodiversity in the local area.
Further information about biodiversity can be found in Chapter 8 of our Environmental Statement which was submitted as part of our Development Consent Order application.
What people are saying about our project?
As we near construction later in the year, we’ve been reflecting on why this project is so important and been talking to people about what the scheme means to them.
In the following video we hear from Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown MP and the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr Mark Hawthorne about the what the scheme will mean for local people:
In this video we hear from Julian Lavington, Chair of Birdlip Parish Council and Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner about what the scheme will mean for transport and safety:
This video features Kier’s Environmental Manager Claire Elliott and Andy Parsons from Cotswold National Landscape who explain the importance of protecting the special landscape of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and what measures are being taken to do this:
Here, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, Kath Haworth, Assistant Director of Highways and Infrastructure at Gloucestershire County Council, and Steve Gardner-Collins, Director of Visit Gloucestershire explains what it means for the local community and tourism:
We also hear from David Owen at GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, Sam Holiday of the Federation of Small Businesses and a local business about how the project will help local businesses to thrive:
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Booklet
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Feedback Questionnaire
A417 Statement of Community Consultation - September 2019
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Consultation Plan - Climbing the Escarpment
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Consultation Plan - Overall Scheme
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Consultation Plan - Repurposed A417
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Consultation Plan - Shab Hill to Cowley Junction
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Red Line Boundary Plan
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Mainline Plan and Profile Sheet 1
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Mainline Plan and Profile Sheet 2
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Mainline Plan and Profile Sheet 3
A417 Missing Link Public Consultation - Mainline Plan and Profile Sheet 4
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Appendices
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 1
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 2
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 3
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 4
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 5
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Figures Volume 6
A417 Missing Link - Preliminary Environmental Information Report - Non Technical Summary
The Development Consent Order (DCO) process was established by the Planning Act 2008 and is used for certain large and complex schemes (including highway improvements) that have been designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) by the Government.
The Secretary of State for Transport granted development consent for the A417 Missing Link Development Consent Order (DCO) on 16 November 2022. Links to key DCO documentation can be found below:
- Examining Authority’s report and recommendations to the Secretary of State for Transport
- Secretary of State for Transport’s decision letter and statement of reasons
- DCO as made by the Secretary of State for Transport
The made DCO is Statutory Instrument 2022 No. 1248 and is available to view at legislation.gov.uk.
Development Consent Order – Requirements Register
Requirements are conditions that have been included in the DCO, these control how the project must be implemented (constructed and maintained). Implementing the DCO in accordance with these conditions involves completing approval processes that have been defined in the DCO. These processes are referred to here and in the DCO as “discharging” the requirements.
This Requirements Register is a live document and will be updated as the process to discharge the requirements progresses.
The latest version will always be published below:
This register will be maintained for three years following completion of the project. The register sets out:
- each requirement
- whether the requirement needs approval by the Secretary of State (or other duty holder)
- whether any approval has been applied for or given
SoS Mark Harper MP visit photo
Closure leaflets 2023
Images and videos
GIF's & Infographics