Gloucestershire County Council pulls support for Air Balloon roundabout changes
CONTROVERSIAL plans for a right turn ban at the Air Balloon roundabout look like they are about to burst.
Gloucestershire County Council has today announced it has withdrawn its support for the scheme and is calling on the Highways Agency to drop the plans.
While the HA could still plough forward with proposed £78,500 pilot at the A417 roundabout, this decision means it must do so without £45,000 of funding from GCC.
The government agency has not yet confirmed what its plans now are for the roundabout.
If it goes ahead this summer, the six-month trial at the Air Balloon roundabout would force drivers to turn left when coming from the direction of Cirencester on the A417, freeing up the roundabout for traffic coming up Crickley Hill.
The aim is to cut down on congestion at the traffic and pollution blackspot, but reports indicate it will have minimal impact on Nitrogen Dioxide levels in the area and could increase greenhouse gases and worsen traffic in surrounding villages.
GCC leader Cllr Mark Hawthorne said: “The Highways Agency hasn’t engaged well with local residents and there doesn’t seem to me to be any likelihood of their proposal achieving the local support the council sees as crucial to the success of any trial.
“On that basis, I can’t support a trial going ahead. The A417 remains one of the biggest transport bottlenecks in Gloucestershire and we’ll keep lobbying to persuade the Highways Agency to come up with a credible long term solution to the issues there.”
More than 150 people have contacted Cotswold district councillor Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem, Churn Valley) by email and letter about the proposed right-turn ban at the Air Balloon roundabout, of which just three were in favour of it.
Commenting on today's decision, he said: "I think people power has won out at last, but we're not out of the woods yet because we have to wait for the Highways decision."
This week he is taking residents' views to the Highways Agency’s Ed Halford, who is leading the project, in the hope of deflating the Air Balloon project for good.
"The HA now needs to bite the bullet and drop the scheme," he said.
Cllr Hodgkinson is also asking CDC’s full council to call on the HA to cancel the plans and consult immediately with Gloucestershire County Council, CDC, parish councils and conservation groups on a long term improvement plan for the Air Balloon roundabout.
His motion will be proposed at CDC’s meeting on Tuesday, February 26 and has been backed by district councillor Nicholas Parsons (Con, Ermin).
Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he supported the county council's decision to ask the HA to abandon this scheme in view of the level of public concern.
“The traffic congestion at the Air balloon is a serious problem. I will continue my long-term campaign to find a complete and acceptable solution," Mr Clifton-Brown said.
“In the meantime smaller scale works, such as an extra carriageway up Leckhampton Hill, as well as alterations to the Birdlip junction to make it safer and other measures such as repositioning the Air Balloon roundabout, should all be looked at.
“I have already pledged to hold a public meeting in Elkstone to see what can be done to deter through traffic from rat-running through small village roads.”