A TOTAL of £20,000 has been allocated so the next stage of developing a solar sound barrier along the A419 can begin.

The scheme would see gaps in the fencing along the dual carriageway in parts of Covingham, Liden and Stratton filled in with solar panels to protect long-suffering residents from excessive noise created by traffic.

Residents have had to put up with constant traffic on the major road and noise maps produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show it produces sound over 70 decibels – equivalent to a vacuum cleaner permanently switched on.

The sum of £20,000 has been allocated to be used to put together a workable business proposal for the scheme.

It is estimated it will cost between £1m and £2m but it is believed much of the cost will be recovered through selling on the electricity generated through the panels. It has been proposed that a community trust could be established to sell the electricity to local firms.

Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), who is pushing for the scheme, said: “A cross-party working group was established to develop a business case for a solar sound barrier along the A419 road and, in order to continue progress, specialist external expertise is needed to demonstrate this idea is viable and can be implemented.

“The work so far has shown that the scheme is possible, but now we need the experts to crunch the numbers, work up a viable design and put forward a fully costed recommendation on how we move forward.

“The money is coming from the council’s Corporate Contingency Fund, so this doesn’t affect any council service.”

Work is coming along quickly and it is hoped that within the next few months a full report can be put to the cabinet detailing all the costs involved.

Coun Heenan said: “The design will take into account both sides of the road.

“The tender for the design work has been awarded, and the initial designs and options are due on February 28. By the end of March we will have the final report and confirmed costs, and I’m looking to have a Cabinet report in April to agree the way forward.”