A National Highways funding stream is helping to reconnect Gloucestershire by improving connectivity and accessibility to Public Rights of Way near the A417.
National Highways, the company responsible for England’s major A-roads and motorways, is investing over £130,000 from its Users and Communities fund.
The fund aims to build new infrastructure and enhance existing facilities to encourage more sustainable, non-motorised forms of transport.
Together with Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Local Access Forum, the Connecting Parishes project will reconnect multiple Public Rights of Ways between neighbouring parishes and the Cotswolds Way, which were previously severed by the Strategic Road Network.
There will be a core focus on improving active travel, ensuring there are more accessible and safer active travel options which will enhance local connectivity for communities and allow more people to enjoy the Cotswolds National Landscape (formerly known as the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Working with Gloucestershire County Council, who are leading on delivering these projects, Connecting Parishes consists of 18 different sections of Public Rights of Way which will link into the Cotswold Scarp in parishes around the A417, some of which will link into Air Balloon Way.
Jess Dudley, Designated Funding Project Manager, said: “Our Designated Funds programme aims to address social and environmental issues and add real value to society.
The funding has supported initiatives across the country over a number of years and we continue to look at future opportunities to enhance the environment around our network.
Connecting Parishes project aims to reconnect walking, cycling and horse riders with routes across the area, as well as improving accessibility for those who wish to use these routes.
“You may have noticed some work has already started. If these works have impacted you, we’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding while we deliver this important project, which will offer many benefits to local people and visitors.”
Cllr. David Gray, cabinet member for environment and planning at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “The A417 project has opened up a myriad of opportunities for the area and this reconnection project is a fantastic example of that. Public Rights of Way are essential to the life blood of our rural county and something people are very passionate about.
“I’m so pleased that we can offer our support to this project and I know teams are working really hard with local communities to ensure the success of this ambitious project.”
Up to 2025, National Highways will invest almost £1 billion (£936 million) from its designated funding programme. This money is allocated to four funding streams focused on making improvements that will make the biggest difference and deliver lasting benefits.
These are safety and congestion, innovation and modernisation, users and communities and environment and well-being.
Elsewhere in the South West, the company’s funding has helped to deliver schemes to enhance biodiversity alongside the M4 and A303 in Wiltshire, the A46 in Bath and North East Somerset and the A35 in Dorset.
Through its designated funding, National Highways is also invested to improve the safety of walkers and cyclists via Cornwall Council’s Saints Trails initiative, providing a network of cycle paths between the coastline and Truro, as well as enabling Cornwall Wildlife Trust to deliver environmental enhancements to the Cornish landscape bordering the A30 – helping to restore and recreate 16.8 hectares of woodland, orchard and grassland.
National Highways has just published its Delivering Social Value Annual Report which measures for the first time the work carried out by the company and its supply chain in local communities.
It launched its first Social Value Plan in October 2022 to frame the company’s commitments to local communities. More than 50 suppliers signed up to the plan and this year some £220,000 was spent through the regional social value fund.
In the south west, the funding has helped to deliver four defibrillators alongside the A417 in Gloucestershire, new road signage at Marston Magna and new play equipment for Queen Camel Playing Fields, both in Somerset.