South Cotswold Ramblers

Ramblers campaign for a tunnel


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Ramblers have launched a campaign which would save a Gloucestershire country pub facing the bulldozers because it stands in the way of a £500 million new road.

Highways chiefs want to demolish the landmark Air Balloon pub and roundabout to create a superhighway right through the heart of the Cotswolds.

But ramblers say putting a short tunnel under the popular watering hole would be much better for the thousands of people who come to the area to enjoy the famous scenery and footpaths.

Effectively turning the pub and the land underneath into a roof for a short tunnel would save the building and remove the need to divert the well-known Cotswold and Gloucestershire Ways.

And a tunnel under the pub to take the A417 through traffic off local roads would allow ramblers to enjoy both in much quieter surroundings.

Ramblers say extra care needs to be taken because the planned new road cuts a swathe through an area of outstanding natural beauty which attracts thousands of visitors to the area.

Richard Holmes, footpath secretary for the area, says the plans put forward by the Highways Agency could decimate part of the Gloucestershire network and wreck some of the scenery.

“The Air Balloon pub is a part of the history of the area and is popular with families and walkers using the Cotswold and Gloucestershire Ways,” he said, calling for a short tunnel under the pub.

He added: “Environmentally, for many of our members, it seems the best option would be for a tunnel.

“We join with the National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust in disappointment that a tunnel option wasn’t put forward.

“If A417 through traffic was in a tunnel, local roads would be much quieter for local people.”

Known locally as the ‘missing link’ the stretch of single carriageway road between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout restricts the flow of traffic on a key route which is otherwise a continuous dual carriageway between the M5 at Gloucester and the M4 at Swindon.

Highways England have put forward two options to solve the traffic problems on the main road into Gloucestershire from the south but have ruled out a tunnel on cost grounds.

The cheapest tunnel to make the shortlist, a three mile tunnel from the back of Shab Hill reappearing at the base of Barrow Wake, would cost £875million.

This is considerably higher than the £485million estimate to build a road through the middle of the pub and roundabout.

But ramblers say highways could save money because their plan removes the need for a link road from Barrow Wake to Shab Hill.

And they say a tunnel might not be too expensive because highways chiefs are already planning to sink the new road into a 100 feet deep cutting to reduce the gradient on the hill.

Chairman Bernard Gill said: “The pub is a meeting point for wlalkers so we don’t want to see it go, but our main concern is about the footpaths.

“We accept something needs to be done about the traffic but the original authors wanted the Cotswold Way and the Gloucester Way to follow those routes for a reason.

“They are designed to make the most of the views and we would not want to see them diverted for the new road. That is why we want a compromise solution.

“If we could get a tiny tunnel just under the pub, that would be a starting point.”

The Ramblers have set up a mailbox for people to express their views.

Bosses at the Chef and Brewer pub are currently in negotiations with the Highways Agency but point out that whatever happens long term, the pub will remain open in the meantime.

See Gloucestershire Ramblers' website