IT could soon become much easier to cycle between Bridgwater town centre and the Gravity Enterprise Zone as various development projects move forward.

The Bridgwater local cycling and walking infrastructure plan (LCWIP) was originally published by Somerset County Council in May 2022, identifying numerous improvements which could be delivered to better connect Bridgwater to the neighbouring villages and major employment sites on the edge of the town.

Among the aspirations within the plan was the delivery of the ‘purple route’, which will eventually form an unbroken link between the town centre and the Gravity Enterprise Zone near Puriton, where a new gigafactory for electric cars is rumoured.

Nearly two years on from its publication, different elements of the ‘purple route’ are starting to come to fruition as a result of government-backed regeneration schemes, new housing developments and other investment in the local area.

The ‘purple route’ as originally identified has two main branches, both of which move from the town centre along the ‘northern corridor’ to the Dunball roundabout, over the M5 and on to the Gravity site via either the new link road off the A39 or through the village of Puriton.

One branch will commence at the Northgate docks, which will be regenerated to the tune of £5.2m under the Bridgwater town deal – of which £1m has been allocated specifically to walking and cycling improvements.

The route will run north towards the Saltlands area, crossing over the A39 Western Way and moving up the right bank of the River Parrett towards the Express Park.

This section was opened to the public in November 2022, with improvements being jointly funded by the levelling up fund and EDF Energy as part of the wider mitigation for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

From the Express Park (and the soon-to-be-constructed tidal barrier) the route will continue downstream along the right bank and join the A38 Bristol Road shortly before the Dunball sluice, where the King’s Sedgemoor Drain meets the river.

The other branch will begin at the Bridgwater Retail Park on The Leggar, with Somerset Council intending to provide some improved connections with the Cross Rifles roundabout as part of its scaled-back upgrade of the busy junction, where the A38 meets the A39.

From there, this branch runs north through the commercial area onto the A38 Bristol Road, joining the other branch north of the King’s Drive roundabout.

Both branches will then move over the Dunball roundabout, with new cycle lanes being delivered as part of a long-awaited multi-million-pound upgrade funded primarily by the levelling up fund.

The council announced on February 12 that it had started the procurement process to identify a contractor to deliver the scheme, with a view to work starting in the summer.

Councillor Richard Wilkins, portfolio holder for transport and digital, said: “This is an important project at a very busy interchange.

“Sometimes there are significant delays for road users during peak times, and it is also very difficult to access for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Delivering a new improved intersection at Dunball is vital for Bridgwater’s continued growth and development.”

From the Dunball roundabout, the ‘purple route’ will run north along the A38 Bristol Road towards Highbridge before turning onto Downend and moving along quiet residential streets on the western edge of Puriton, crossing over the Bristol to Exeter railway line and using an existing footbridge over the M5 north of junction 23.

From there, pedestrians and cyclists have a choice of residential streets to travel through to the Gravity site – including the narrow footpath near the primary school – or they can follow Enterprise Way up to the site’s south-western entrance.

New pavements at the junction of Enterprise Way and Woolavington Road are currently being constructed by Redrow Homes as part of the early stages of delivering 120 new homes on the Polden Orchard site.

These pavements will in turn link up to wider cycling infrastructure between Puriton and Woolavington, which will be delivered by the Gravity site’s owners, after planning permission was granted in May 2023.

The county council originally estimated that delivering all the ‘missing links’ within this route would cost between £2.9m and £3.5m; however, this estimate is likely to have risen significantly in light of inflationary pressures within the construction industry since the coronavirus pandemic.

It is possible that some improvements at the Puriton end of the route could be delivered by Tata once its tenancy of the Gravity site had been confirmed.

But more than six months on from the government’s initial annoucement about the gigafactory (made on the eve of the Somerton and Frome by-election), no further public confirmation has been made.

A spokesman for the Department for Business and Trade told Fast Charge on February 13: “The gigafactory site location is a matter for the company, and they will confirm its chosen location in due course, following due diligence.”

Further announcements on elements of the ‘purple route’, including the layout of the cycling provision around both the Cross Rifles and Dunball roundabouts, are expected to be announced by Somerset Council later in the year.