CYCLING along one of Somerset’s busiest rural roads could soon become a lot easier thanks to central government funding.

The A39 between Williton and Minehead currently has limited cycle facilities, with riders having to either brave existing narrow paths, take their chances on the main road, or take a long diversion using the Steam Coast Trail.

Somerset Council received more than £1.5m of funding from Active Travel England in mid-May 2023 following a successful bid by the now-defunct county council.

The council confirmed just before Christmas 2023 that the money will be used to deliver the next phase of a walking and cycling route on the A39, focussing on the section between Carhampton and Dunster.

The Minehead Area Active Travel group (MAAT) has welcomed the news and offered its ideas for what shape the new route should take and how it can be constructed in a way which reduces disruption for motorists travelling to and from Minehead.

The existing cycle path along the A39 runs from Winsors Lane at the western edge of Carhampton to the crossroads with the A396 in Dunster, near the Loxhole Mill garden centre.

The existing route is very narrow in places, with cyclists having to share limited space with pedestrians and having to deal with overgrown vegetation.

The A39 in a main route for HGVs, creating additional hazards, and sees significant holiday traffic in the summer as tourists travel between the M5 and the Exmoor National Park.

The council’s official roadworks portal indicates that the edges of the current footway between Townsend Farm and Dunster Steep will be removed (known as “siding out”) to allow the new footway and cycleway to be implemented later in the year.

This work is provisionally scheduled to take place between February 12 and March 1, with temporary traffic lights being in place throughout.

MATT members have suggested that part of the neighbouring fields be commandeered during the construction of the new cycleway to prevent lengthy diversions or long queues at temporary traffic lights.

A spokesman said: “A route away from the road, or at least separated from the road by a hedge, would be ideal – but any proper cycle-path will be a great improvement.

“To minimise disruption to people driving, obtaining part use of the fields adjacent to the path during construction would seem necessary."

The new path will link up with a £1m cycle route between Marsh Lane in Dunster and Seaward Way in Minehead, which was completed in June 2023.

The construction of this project was beset by delays and traffic problems, prompting criticism from local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger and the temporary suspension of construction in late-April 2023.

Councillors Mandy Chilcott and Andy Hadley, who represent the town on Somerset Council, said they would do all they could to ensure the new route could be delivered with less disruption.

In a joint statement, they said: “We both very much welcome the government active travel funding and encourage all improvements to our local roads and pavements.

“We will do all that we can to ensure that any works take place outside of peak tourism and travel times.”

Further details surrounding the design and implementation of the new A39 active travel route are expected to be made public in the coming months.