DELIVERING new cycle routes to link Somerset’s county town to two growing villages could cost up to £15m to deliver.

Somerset County Council commissioned a study in March 2023 into new “sustainable transport options” (such as walking and cycling routes) which would link Taunton to the nearby villages of Bishop’s Lydeard and Cotford St Luke.

The £50,000 study was designed to develop detailed proposals which could be delivered by funding from the government’s active travel fund, contributions from housing developers or by the council in-house.

Following consultation with local stakeholders in December 2023, Somerset Council (which replaced the county council in April 2023) has revealed that it could cost up to £15m to deliver new cycle routes in full – with no funding being immediately available.

Both villages lie to the north-west of Taunton on two main commuter roads – with Bishop’s Lydeard being on the A358 (connecting Taunton to Williton) and Cotford St Luke being on the B3227, which eventually leads to Wiveliscombe and the Exmoor National Park.

Both roads see large volumes of traffic but have limited or irregular pavements and little cycling provision until they enter the outskirts of Taunton.

Bishop’s Lydeard has already experienced significant housing growth, with David Wilson Homes delivering 173 new homes on the Moorland Gate site on Taunton Road, at the southern entrance to the village.

Cotford St Luke will see dozens of new homes delivered in the coming years, with Lovell Homes expected to begin building 80 new homes on Dene Road in the spring of 2025 and a decision expected shortly on plans for a further 52 properties on North Villas, near Dene Barton Community Hospital.

While the two villages both lie on or near the West Somerset Railway, heritage services only run between March and October (plus occasional services in the run-up to Christmas), making it largely unviable for commuting.

The council said that active travel options (such as delivering multi-user paths between Taunton and the two villages) had “scored highly” in the strategic outline cases (SOCs) assembled within the initial study.

Somerset County Gazette: Part on an existing footpath between Cotford St Luke and Norton Fitzwarren.Part on an existing footpath between Cotford St Luke and Norton Fitzwarren. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

However, the precise routes of any multi-users paths – such as those being delivered on the Strawberry Line or as part of the Glastonbury town deal – has not yet been set, and there is no funding to put any such proposals together.

A spokesman said: “We do not have ‘intended routes’; we have produced SOCs which align options to set objectives.

“We don’t currently have funding to take these SOCs to the required next stage of an outline business case.

“In the event we do access funding consultation will of course be carried out, as with any project.

“The SOC is the first step in progressing the potential £10m to £15m that might be needed for any route in its entirety.

“We are not aware of any government funding available for progressing the SOCs.

“Should any funding – whether government, charity or developer contributions – become available that meets the criteria any of these options align to, then we will apply for them.”

The council secured £1.5m of funding from Active Travel England in May 2023; however this money will be directed towards delivering an improved route along the A39 between Carhampton and Dunster, linking up with a £1m scheme between Dunster and Minehead which was completed in July 2023.

Greenways and Cycle Route has been working with various community organisations to deliver lower-cost cycle routes in predominantly rural areas, such as the Strawberry Line extensions and Windsor Hill tunnel project (both in Shepton Mallet).

The council said it would continue its working relationship with the organisation to deliver rural multi-user paths, but that there was no further funding for additional schemes.

A spokesman said: “We remain committed to improving our rural active travel connectivity and continue to work with Greenways and Cycle Routes on the Strawberry Line project.

“We currently have no funding to deliver any additional schemes with the organisation.”