The gridlock at the Air Balloon roundabout has been much in the news again. 

Not a day goes by without an incident or a hold up at the notorious traffic blackspot. Today – as local county councillor for part of the A417 ‘Missing Link’ – I met with the Regional Delivery Director for Highways England who is responsible for delivering 5 road schemes across the South West including this one. Here are the key points he communicated to me which local residents fed up with the constant hold ups will be interested in:

Construction will start in mid 2021 with the new road open to traffic in mid 2024. But no options have been finalised yet:

There has been talk this week of a ‘preferred option’ for the Missing Link. In fact, 30 different routes were originally identified by Highways England. Shortlisted options will be selected by the Autumn this year. The HE Director’s comment to me this morning was:

“We plan to consult on options at the end of this year and remain on target to do that. I can confirm that we have not finalised which options will be included in the consultation.”  He is happy for these comments to be used in response to the news story which appeared yesterday.

Communication and consultation with the public:

A community newsletter will be distributed this month detailing the timescales for consultation, the legal processes which have to be gone through and the target dates for construction and opening of the new road.

The public will be consulted on the options for solving the ‘Missing Link’ and this will start by the end of this year. The formal ‘Statutory Consultation’ will take place in 2018 and the final solution will then be chosen and presented to the Government. The budget range for the solution will be between £255m and £500m.

My comments on this are:

“There has been so much spin and speculation about when and how the Missing Link will be eventually solved. It’s good to hear direct from Highways England what their plans are and their timescales. Of course, I want the issues fixed now – the accidents, the gridlock and the pollution have gone on for too long. But at last we have clarity over what is going to happen. 

“The most important thing now is for everyone to give their views when the options are announced and then make every effort to help Highways bosses get on with their job and deliver the much-needed new road. It can’t come a day too soon for residents and businesses alike.

For more information on this please contact Paul Hodgkinson, 07785 263759.

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