MORE THAN £8million will be spent on upgrading one of Taunton’s busiest road junctions – at the same time as ongoing work on the M5.

Somerset County Council has given the green light to improvements to the Creech Castle junction, which links the A358 Toneway with the A38 Bridgwater Road.

The council has appointed its chosen contractor for the scheme, which is designed to improve traffic flow and provide additional capacity as more of the Monkton Heathfield urban extension is built out.

The work will begin in the spring and will coincide with the ongoing upgrade to Junction 25 of the M5, which is scheduled to finish in the summer of 2021.

Somerset County Gazette:

PLAN: Before and after layout of the junciton 

The council’s cabinet gave the final go-ahead for the scheme when it met in Taunton on Monday morning (February 10) – though the identity of its chosen contractor will not be made public for a few more weeks.

Under the most recent designs, traffic heading eastbound (i.e. out of the town centre) will no longer be able to turn right onto Bridgwater Road, towards the Premier Inn.

Traffic wishing to turn this way will instead have to travel down to the Hankridge roundabout and double back.

By removing the right hand turn lane, three lanes of traffic can now travel either eastbound or westbound.

Traffic approaching Taunton from the Monkton Heathfield end (i.e. from the north) will have a choice of two lanes on the A358 into the county town.

Councillor John Woodman, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This is a vital improvement in allowing new housing and employment growth across Taunton, and delivering new homes in Monkton Heathfield.

“It will provide significant capacity and keep the road moving now and in the future.”

In additional to the extra capacity for vehicles, the redesigned junction will also see upgraded pedestrian and cycling facilities to encourage more people to commute or travel to school on foot or by bicycle.

Sunita Mills, the council’s service commissioning manager for transport policy, said the new provision was the best that could be achieved within the physical constraints of the site.

She said in her written report: “The scheme will deliver active travel infrastructure, which will make walking and cycling trips safer and enable more people to undertake shorter journeys by these modes.

“We have worked with the Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) to develop the cycling facilities within the scheme.

“It is accepted that the planned facilities do not wholly deliver TACC’s aspirations; however, having taken advice from specialist consultants we believe they are the best that can be delivered within the constraints of land ownership and funding envelope.”

Of the £8.09million needed to upgrade the junction, £6.41million will be provided by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through its growth deal fund.

A further £1.53million will come from the county council, with the remaining £150,000 coming from developer contributions from phase one of the Monkton Heathfield extension.

Mr Woodman said running the two major schemes side by side would reduce disruption rather than prolonging delays for Taunton’s drivers.

He said: “Running these two schemes concurrently is the right thing to do.

“It means vital funding is secured, it means any temporary disruption will be confined to a shorter time period, and, most importantly, it means we will all enjoy the benefits sooner.

“The next step will be to finalise the detailed plan for delivery and we’ll be sharing these with the community in the next few weeks.”

Preliminary work to clear the site near the Creech Castle junction could begin as early as next week.

The council will shortly announce details of several drop-in event where the public can ask questions about the scheme.