SOMERSET transport bosses have declined to confirm how they will spend more than £400,000 of new government funding for walking and cycling routes.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Saturday (March 23) that Somerset would receive a share of £101m in the latest round of funding to deliver new active travel routes across the UK.

Active Travel England (which is part of the DfT) has confirmed that Somerset Council will receive £409,537 of “capability funding”, which can be used to fund the design work for new and improved walking and cycling networks.

But the council has declined to say how and where in the county this new funding will be targeted.

Roads minister Guy Opperman MP said: “We’re committed to ensuring people can travel in the way that works best for them, which is why we’re investing over £100m for over 100 kilometres of new walking and cycling routes, improved access to our national parks, and e-cycle loan schemes.

“This funding is not just an investment in new infrastructure, but in communities that will benefit from the social mobility and health benefits that improved and new walking and cycling routes will bring.”

The council secured £1,583,322 in May 2023  from a previous round of funding to deliver new walking and cycling routes, with officers finally confirming just before Christmas that the money would be used to improve cycle paths along the A39 between Carhampton and Dunster.

No start date for this scheme has yet been announced, with further details of the scheme’s designs and a construction timetable being expected to be made public later in the year.

Councillor Mike Rigby, then portfolio holder for transport and digital, stated in late-December 2023: “Our team is looking what is possible and looking at ways of getting this done that will cause minimal impact to residents and road users.

“Exploratory work has been undertaken to assess the current conditions and width of the existing path by clearing away vegetation and encroachments to determine the viability of recovering width over longer sections of the route.

“Initial investigations have had positive results, and the team are now considering working methodology for undertaking clearance work from Carhampton through to Dunster efficiently with minimum disruption to the travelling public.”

This latest round of funding as from the active travel capability fund – meaning it must be used for the design work of new schemes and related public consultation, rather than the physical cost of labour and materials.

The council has been working with numerous community and voluntary organisations to try and deliver new multi-user paths across Somerset through a variety of different funding sources.

In the more urban parts of the county, some improvements have been secured through central government funding, with the levelling up fund paying for improved links between the Dunball roundabout and Bridgwater town centre (complimented by funding from EDF Energy to mitigate the construction of Hinkley Point C).

Additional cycle routes are planned in Bridgwater in the coming months, which will be delivered as part of the £23.2m Bridgwater town deal, with £9m of central government funding going towards the Celebration Mile and a further £1m on links to and from the Northgate Docks.

In more rural areas, new paths have been and will be delivered through funding set aside by previous local authorities (in the case of the Strawberry Line) or sourced from housing developers (in the case of the Steam Coast Trail).

A council spokesman said: “We welcome the extra funding.

“It’s too early to say where this will be used as we’ve only just had the announcement, but we can say it will help fund the design of future schemes.”