TAUNTON Deane MP Rebecca Pow has held urgent talks with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to discuss local concerns about the proposed upgrade of the A358.

It comes after many constituents have raised issues with Ms Pow around both the route offered for consultation and the Highways England (HE) Taunton to Southfields consultation itself.

Across Taunton Deane there are mixed feelings about the proposed new route and Ms Pow says she is working to represent all these views.

She said: "Whilst I am delighted that this government, with its strong economy, has allocated funding for this much needed upgrade a key concern relates to the fact that the one route proposed in the consultation appears to deliver little for Taunton itself.

"HE point out in their guidance that a main criterion of the upgrade is supporting economic growth but with no link to the new Nexus employment site, for example, and bypassing Taunton altogether, it remains unclear what economic benefits will be brought to the area.

"Local residents have also been disappointed by HE’s decision to only offer one route option to be consulted on, with questions focused solely on this route.

"There was also much consternation about the timescales around the consultation period as it clashed with two periods of purdah, the county council election and the General Election.

'In this respect I was pleased to be able to help persuade HE to extend the consultation period to July 16 to give local people more time to submitted their views."

Commenting on the meeting with Mr Grayling, she added: "I was grateful to have an open and frank meeting with Chris Grayling where I conveyed the views of many people in Taunton Deane.

"After all it will be local residents who have to use the road and live with its consequences every day, so I am determined that their views will be heard.

"It is also important that national requirements to move traffic more quickly from east to west are satisfied.

"It is all about balancing the options. Going forward, I would like to see a number of things addressed, in particular increasing the opportunities for the economic spin-off for Taunton, as well ensuring any new upgrade is as safe as possible for road users and addresses the air pollution problem though Henlade.

"I worked hard with others to secure the funding allocation for this road upgrade and I will continue to represent my constituents, working alongside many other stakeholders to ensure that any changes to the A358 are made in the best interests of Taunton."