Major Road Building Plan for Glastonbury?

In November 2017 Bruce from Unique Publications posted a piece on his blog about a proposed plan to build a major road, bypassing Glastonbury, very close to the Tor.

I would like to quote the points Bruce made which I feel are most revealing of the likely impact this would have on our town:

“In Glastonbury, traffic coming along the A361 down Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane is a serious problem, and many residents are very pleased to hear that a new relief road is being considered. There are worrying aspects to this proposal, however, and before jumping to the conclusion that anything is better than the appalling heavy traffic that is ruining our homes and our lives, it is worth having a look at what is actually going on. The most worrying aspect is that this relief road – together with associated development – would go along the route of the old railway line close to the Tor, causing serious damage to Glastonbury’s iconic landscape.”

Here are maps showing the route of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway, which clearly illustrates the route the road would take, the farmland that would be opened up to development alongside it, and the close proximity of this to the Tor.

Mendip Expressway Glastonbury Bypass Possible Route
Here’s an aerial view, with the route marked in purple (thanks Bing Maps)

Property Development and Light Industry Along the Route

Bruce goes on to say:

“The suggested relief road, if it happens, would be funded through ‘partnership’ with property developers, who would pay for the road in return for access to land for building houses and establishing light industry – initially in Brindham and Wick, though this would open up land along the whole route for future development.

The impact on the environment would be enormous. The heritage aspect of Glastonbury as a historical spiritual centre would be severely damaged. The Tor and Chalice Hill would be cut off from the open countryside and put in danger of becoming green blobs in the midst of urban sprawl. What is most important here would be disrespected, even desecrated, and made subservient to a crass version of ‘economic development’.

Even this would be an illusion. Most new enterprise that might be created in the development area would merely replace existing business that is at present situated nearer to the centre of the town. Meanwhile tourism, on which Glastonbury depends, would be flagrantly undermined.”

Bruce explains that this road would be part of a much larger potential project that originates from the Department for Transport for a Major Road Network (MRN), For the whole post please click here.

Bruce posted a second article on the subject on the 25th of January 2018, regarding on the ‘Road Consultation’ that is planned. I urge you to click here to read this one in full too. Here is an excerpt:

“The Town Council is organising its own town consultation on the subject, encouraged by our MP James Heappey. Their consultation is due to be delivered to homes on February 14th (it’s their valentine card to all of us!) Everyone wants a bypass, or at least some way of redirecting through traffic away from Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane. The consultation document, however, does not explain that the possible bypass would be part of this new national network – and would therefore increase the overall volume of traffic coming through the Glastonbury area; or that it would be paid for partly by ‘partnership’ funding from property developers – in other words the road could only be built with substantial housing and commercial development along the route.”

Personally, I am horrified at the impact that this road would have on this unique and special landscape, I feel that many who are in positions of influence locally fail to recognise that the landscape, which has shaped the town over millennia, is central to Glastonbury’s importance and appeal to people around the world. When I first climbed the Tor, 30 years ago this August, I was captivated by the beauty of the countryside around it, and after dark, I was awestruck by the clear view of the stars in the night sky . Development and the ensuing light pollution has already taken away some of the majesty of this special place, I would rather not see it destroyed forever. I appreciate that any solution to dealing with the traffic passing daily through Glastonbury is going to involve compromise, but it seems to me that this one will serve only to benefit big business, and may well destroy what we seek to preserve.

I feel it is imperative that the people of Glastonbury are fully informed so they can understand the wider implications of any scheme before being consulted over a decision that will affect the town for many years to come. I know Bruce well, and trust him – he has had the best interests of Glastonbury at his heart for decades and is scrupulous in his research. His articles cover the subject extensively and make it clear that our local MP supports this scheme – making it more likely to become a reality. Again, please read both articles in full and do your own research too:

The Mendip Expressway

Glastonbury’s Road Consultation

Further Clarification from Bruce

Since I published this post a reader made a comment asking for clarification on some points (please see Comment from John below). As I am not familiar with the finer points of planning law I asked Bruce to respond:

“Thanks for this, and it is well worth clarifying even though the answer is somewhat long and complicated.

The Local Plan policy for old railway tracks in general is that they should be used for ’sustainable transport development’, i.e. footpaths, bridleways, etc. This section however was given consent for a bypass back in the 1990s. The incoming Labour government then called a moratorium on road building. In 2000, as the result of political actions by a prominent Town Councillor, businessman and property developer, who is still there and still a leading member of the pro-road lobby, this permission was retained and put on the back burner rather than cancelled.

Development associated with the proposed road would indeed need consent, and the District Council is already subject to lobbying in that respect from the local MP (James Heappey, Chris Grayling’s PPS). Housing proposed in the current District Plan has already been taken up, and Glastonbury (being surrounded by peat moors and wetland) is running out of building space. Marginal areas, however, are already being filled up with hardcore or Mendip limestone as space becomes more and more at a premium. Heappey seems confident of getting Mendip’s compliance, and has also made clear that the road construction would depend on adequate partnership funding being available via construction. This probably implies 1,000 houses, or its equivalent partly in commercial development, i.e an increase in the size of Glastonbury by about 20% at one throw.

No-one has challenged the idea that development would be adjacent to the road, even though it would be outside the current development boundary. Proposals such as re-locating a local haulage firm to beside the new road and using their existing site for new housing are already being enthusiastically discussed in some circles. There is nowhere within the development boundary remotely big enough for development on the scale envisaged. It would probably begin at the western end of the route about a mile and a half from the Tor, though – and this is an assumption, but I think a reasonable one – once development had begun there it is very likely to gradually creep along the route. From the point of view of the Tor itself, simply the road and its traffic would be extremely intrusive, as well as meaning that both the Tor and Chalice Hill would be cut off from open countryside and in danger of being gradually encircled by suburban development.

The point really is that the Department for Transport seems ready to push aside local planning considerations in order to ‘improve’ the A361 ready for inclusion in its new Major Road Network.”

Some possible alternatives

I’d clumsily suggested in my facebook post that most agree we need a bypass in Glastonbury, Alister pointed out to me that other suggestions to deal with Glastonbury’s traffic problem had been made:

“There is a widespread opinion among Greens that more roads just create more traffic. For people who take this view, the solution lies in large-scale transport policy changes.

Others believe that the A361 should be delisted as an HGV route – trucks would then have to use, for example, the A37/A303, and entirely bypass the area.

For those who do see a new road as the only solution, there are at least two other proposed routes. Bretenoux Road, at the bottom of the Actis Estate, is so wide because it was built as part of a plan for a bypass running from Edgarley to Pomparles Bridge. However as I understand it, it was decided the destruction of the countryside in the Cinnamon Lane area would be too high a price to pay.

There is also the “Ridge Route”, widening the existing road from Cannards Grave to Dinder, which would send traffic straight onto the existing Wells Relief Road, then the A39 to Glastonbury, and the existing Glastonbury and Street bypasses. This option, I have been told, hasn’t been pursued because it was a favourite of the LibDems, and it’s the Conservatives who run Somerset and Mendip Councils.”

The Ridge Route, which would also bypass Pilton and West Pennard, which also suffer from heavy truck traffic.

I’d like to see a discussion group on the web about how the town is going to tackle road issues in the future, in order to find a solution that is in the best interests of Glastonbury’s people, visitors and the environment. If anyone knows of any suitable existing forums or wants to set one up, please let me know and I will publicise it on here.

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5 thoughts on “Major Road Building Plan for Glastonbury?”

  1. I don’t know the area. I have been to Glastonbury once. I don’t understand the assumption that even if the road is built that must inevitably mean development in the view from the Tor. There must be Local Plan policies about the use of this land and it seems a bit simplistic for the article not to state what these policies are. It is critical because any development in addition to the road would need consent and an application that is against policy should not get consent. Objectors get into a muddle about proximity but developers have to make financial contributions to a lot of benefits anywhere in the local authority area. The school they help pay for does not have to be next to their development, it could be 30 miles away.

    • Dear John, Thanks for your thoughts, I have passed your comment on to Bruce who wrote the original articles. I am not well enough acquainted with planning law to comment. My intention with this post was to bring the matter to public awareness, as I know many in town were not aware of this proposed route, I am glad it has stimulated discussion and debate. Best wishes, Vicki

  2. Perhaps a new version of the A361, running from the existing junction with the A37 to the A39 between Street and Glastonbury, would be better. It would run to the south of the existing A361 and the town.

  3. Well, if the Bretenoux Road plan is revived I’ll be even worse off than I am now, and so will lots of Glastonbury residents currently enduring conditions on the A361. That’s one I definitely won’t be supporting! Get the HGVs and stone lorries off the route and things will become much more manageable.

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