Latest options for Glastonbury Bypass

Blog post, 7/10/2019

Lately there has been much talk and speculation about the latest plans for a Glastonbury bypass, though no firm information. There are certainly plans being formulated, as part of the government’s Major Road Network scheme, and Town and Parish Councils along the A361/A39 route between Shepton Mallet and Ashcott are being privately kept informed. However, there seems to be an effort – presumably coming from Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council – to avoid public discussion of the issue.

The opinion of many people in Glastonbury is that the A361 through central Somerset is an inappropriate route for the Major Road Network, full stop. Nevertheless the route was agreed by Somerset County Council early last year – with no reference at all to local people. At the time there was considerable debate concerning a ‘Glastonbury bypass’ though nothing from the County Council, the MP or local press making clear that this was actually part of a national road-building programme with national objectives and priorities – and which would actually channel an increased volume of traffic through central Somerset.

There are now a total of eight schemes under consideration: three options for a Walton/Ashcott bypass, three options for a Glastonbury bypass, one for Pilton and one for Glastonbury and Pilton combined. Those that would directly affect Glastonbury are as follows:

option c northern link orig
The first two are slightly firmed up versions of the two ‘southern route’ proposals outlined last March. The third is a short version of the ‘northern route’ – and much closer to the Tor than the route along the railway line that has been previously suggested. The fourth is a new proposal, which would take traffic all the way from Whitstone Hill above Pilton to join the A39 (Wells road) north of Glastonbury – a potential 9.2 Km of new road. All these options would cause enormous damage to Glastonbury’s landscape; it would also appear that they would all cost far more than the suggested £20 million, and most of them would probably cost more than the £50 million ceiling for MRN-funded schemes.

​I think it is interesting to note that in August this year the cross-party Science and Technology Commons Select Committee of MPs stated that the government cannot reach its carbon reduction targets – flimsy as they are anyway – without reducing motor traffic. The government said it would ‘consider’ their paper, but has now confirmed the multi-billion pound Major Road Network programme. Locally, Glastonbury Town Council, Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council have all passed resolutions declaring a ‘climate emergency’, though there seems little awareness that this would be directly contradicted by new road-building schemes.

Glastonbury Town Council now has a majority of Green councillors, and the Green Party has a policy of no new road building. So far as Glastonbury Town Council policy is concerned however, this has been watered down to ‘no new road building on the flood plain’ – which would mean the longer southern route and the ‘A39 strategic link’. The much shorter northern link would be so close to Glastonbury Tor that ‘environmental considerations’ would almost certainly put it out of contention. It therefore seems likely that the Town Council’s preferred option would be the short southern route.

Our County Councillor Liz Leyshon has requested that these plans should not be made public at the present time because “we have no knowledge of who will be our Prime Minister and government in the next few months, and so decisions on road building are not likely to reach the top of the list of decisions for some time”. I acknowledge that she is doing the best job that she can, probably in very difficult circumstances, but this reasoning seems spurious. This is a matter of immediate public concern, and the sooner local people have the chance to make their voices heard the better.