Somerset a303 plans at risk due to potential ‘birdstrike’ incident fears
Plans to widen a major road in Somerset could be in jeopardy due to fears over potential “birdstrike” incidents from a nearby naval airbase.
The A303 dual carriageway scheme would involve ponds being built near the Royal Navy Yeovilton base.
But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the ponds might attract birds which could get caught up in aircraft engines or helicopter blades.
A decision on Highways England’s plan is expected in November.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it is “minded to refuse” the proposals due to the potential dangers for aircraft and other issues.
Plans to turn parts of the A303 between Wincanton and Ilminster into a dual carriageway were debated at a public inquiry in 2019 before the government pushed the decision back to November.
In a letter to Highways England the DfT’s head of transport and works act unit Natasha Kopala said the MoD was worried about the ponds, which are planned near the Podimore roundabout.
The letter states there is “the potential for birdstrike as the proposed ponds would have the potential to attract birds hazardous to aircraft”.
The DfT also said it also had concerns over crossings for cyclists, walkers and horse riders, particularly at the Hazlegrove roundabout, and whether a stretch of the existing single-lane road could be retained for use by local residents.
It also said two businesses – a 1950s-style diner and a Texaco garage next to the A303 – could be affected as the new dual carriageway would take business away from them.
Highways England said it was working to address the concerns and “remained confident” that the road upgrade, expected to cost between £100m and £250m, would go ahead.
Somerset Council, which supports the scheme, has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying it is “extremely concerned” at the prospect of the dualling being turned down.