Section of the A303 – leading to Glastonbury from London – to become dual carriageway after £250m work approved
Following continued delays, the Department for Transport approved the scheme to dual the single-carriageway stretch of the A303 between the Podimore roundabout near Ilchester and the Sparkford roundabout, where the road meets the A359.
The proposals – put forward in 2019 by Highways England – were finally approved on Friday (January 29), and will see a stretch of around three miles dulled between the two roundabouts, with the new carriageway largely following the footprint of the existing road.
According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, on an average day, roughly 23,500 vehicles use the stretch of the A303 that will be improved. Those numbers increased significantly in the summer, particularly at weekends, with many using it as a route to the Glastonbury Festival from London and the south-east.
Nick Harris, acting chief executive of Highways England, said: “We welcome the secretary of state’s decision to upgrade the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester.
“Along with the A303 Stonehenge tunnel project, it is part of the biggest investment in our road network for a generation.
“This scheme will support economic growth and facilitate growth in jobs and housing by creating a free-flowing and reliable connection between the south-east and south-west.
“It will also tackle a long-standing bottleneck, reduce journey times to the south-west and improve traffic flows in that area at peak times and during peak seasons.”
Highways England has estimated that the Somerset scheme will cost between £100M and £250M to complete, with construction expected to begin by the end of 2021 and lasting until 2024.
The new road will also include new and replacement slip roads, junctions and road bridges to replace existing junctions and direct access roads.
Lee Nathan, south-west regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Upgrading the single carriageway sections of this important route is key to supporting the south-west economy, particularly as the only alternative route via the M4 and M5 into the south-west is already heavily congested.
“We believe that more investment should be directed to improving key links on the A-road network across the UK as a way of supporting our local regional economies.
“As a result, we are wholeheartedly in support of this new scheme.”
Glastonbury organisers confirmed the cancellation of the Festival’s 2021 edition in a statement posted via their official channels earlier this month (Thursday, 21 January), saying:
“With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place, and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us.
“In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year. We are so sorry to let you all down.
“As with last year, we would like to offer all those who secured a ticket in October 2019 the opportunity to roll their £50 deposit over to next year, and guarantee the chance to buy a ticket for Glastonbury 2022. We are very appreciative of the faith and trust placed in us by those of you with deposits, and we are very confident we can deliver something really special for us all in 2022!
“We thank you for your incredible continued support and let’s look forward to better times ahead.
With love, Michael & Emily”
Up until the very last moment, organisers had been working diligently in order to try and make it possible for the festival to go ahead safely this year.
Late last year (December 16, 2020), in an interview to the BBC, Eavis said: “We’re doing everything we can on our end to plan and prepare, but there are still just so many unknowns and factors which are completely out of our control. What we definitely can’t afford to risk is getting too far into the process of next year, only for it to be snatched away from us again. We lost millions this year, and we can’t risk that happening again.”
In the same interview, Eavis added that if the Festival could not happen in its traditional form, the organisers will consider inviting artists to perform on the farm for a series of live streams.
Echoing her words from last year – earlier this month (Friday, 22 January), while talking to The Guardian, Eavis discussed plans for 2021, confirming she was still working on Glastonbury-related projects, including possible live-streamed events.
“A lot of big artists have been in touch offering to perform for us at the farm, so we’re doing everything we can to make that happen. We would love to build a show that can be watched at home by people all over the world, and of course it would be a useful way for us to make some very welcome income,” she said.
Following the 2021 Festival cancellation announcement – Glastonbury founder and father of Emily Eavis, Michael Eavis, revealed earlier this month (Thursday, 21 January) that they were “considering” a smaller event for September, saying: “I would like to do something smaller somewhere around the anniversary date of when we started, which was the 18th of September 1970”.
Glastonbury was set to celebrate its 50th-anniversary last summer (June 2020) – with headliners in Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney – but was forced to cancel the 2020 instalment due to the coronavirus crisis just a week after the lineup was announced in March of 2020.
Now with also the 2021 edition of the Festival being cancelled, MPs have spoken out in the wake of Glastonbury’s cancellation to warn that the future of festivals could be threatened.
“The news that the UK has lost the Glastonbury Festival for a second year running is devastating,” said DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP. “We have repeatedly called for Ministers to act to protect our world-renowned festivals like this one with a Government-backed insurance scheme. Our plea fell on deaf ears and now the chickens have come home to roost.
“The jewel in the crown will be absent but surely the Government cannot ignore the message any longer – it must act now to save this vibrant and vital festivals sector.”
Glastonbury 2022 is set to take place at its natural home in Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, from 22nd – 26th June 2022