Contractor appointed for Junction 25 upgrade

A multi-million pound scheme to upgrade the busy M5 Junction 25 roundabout at Taunton is scheduled to begin next month following the appointment of the principal contractor.

Somerset County Council has developed a scheme to increase the capacity of this vital link to improve traffic flow, ease peak hour congestion and unlock land for employment to the east of the M5.

Now, following a decision by the Council’s Cabinet before Christmas and the completion of the mandatory procurement standstill period, the contractor can be named as Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd.

This name will be familiar to many in Somerset as they are currently delivering the Western Corridor improvements scheme in Yeovil.

Somerset County Council is now working with Alun Griffiths to finalise the detailed plans for delivery.

Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “We’re pleased to have Alun Griffiths on board and are now working with them on the details of this vitally important scheme.

“Works are planned to begin next month and we’ll be announcing details of the start date and public drop-in events very shortly so we can meet people and go through the plans in more detail.

“This scheme is hugely significant and will provide much needed improvements to one our busiest junctions. We can’t wait to get started.”

Griffiths’ Executive Director Martyn Evans said: “We are delighted to be appointed to deliver this important scheme with Somerset County Council. Griffiths have, over many years, developed a close working relationship with the county resulting in the successful delivery of significant projects which have provided added value to the local economy.

“We look forward to starting work on Junction 25 and recognise the importance of this scheme for the local community and route users. Griffiths will work considerately with the community and do our best to minimise disruption to road users during the various construction phases of the programme.”

The J25 scheme is expected to cost around £19.2m with allocated funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal Fund, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Highways England, Somerset County Council and developer contributions.

Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley CBE DL said: “The Junction 25 improvement is one of the LEP’s largest Growth Deal projects. We’re committed to working with government to attract investment in projects that generate growth and help businesses raise productivity in Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. This major infrastructure improvement will do just that by increasing the connectivity of our area to UK and international markets.”

Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, Cllr John Williams said: “The enhancement of Junction 25 represents a major step forward to improve our all-important road system. It opens up a significant opportunity to bring new business and investment to Taunton. It is not only vital to cope with growth across the town but is pivotal to our plans for the Nexus 25 employment site which will support innovation, collaboration and the productivity that our economy needs. It is great to see this project moving forward to benefit the long term connectivity and economy of Taunton. I now look forward to the announcement of the preferred route of the A358 in the spring which is another essential element of our plans to deliver improved infrastructure to match the growth in housing, jobs and leisure in our County town.”

The upgrade involves full signalisation and enlarging of the roundabout, widening of the eastern exit, a new roundabout to access the proposed Nexus 25 employment site, and safer pedestrian and cycling facilities.

Junction 25 currently experiences congestion in both peak hours, with queues frequently extending along the A358 in both directions and it will help address issues with backing up onto the M5.

The scheme aims to improve journey times, reduce congestion, improve Park & Ride journey time reliability and create a more attractive gateway to Taunton, Yeovil and the A303 from the M5. The scheme will also unlock access into the proposed Nexus 25 employment site and support other planned growth across Taunton.

The designs have been shared with Highways England who are developing a major dual carriageway improvement to the A358 between Ilminster and the M5. Highways England consulted on three A358 options last year and these localised improvements to Junction 25 are necessary regardless of which wider A358 option is taken forward by Highways England.    

The J25 scheme, which is expected to take two years to deliver, has also been planned to run alongside future planned improvements at the Creech Castle junction on Toneway in Taunton. This scheme is currently being developed but works are expected to begin in 2020. Co-ordinating them to overlap in this way should reduce the impact on motorists by reducing the overall timescales compared to running them consecutively.

You can stay up to date with current and future roadworks as well as checking for live travel incidents at www.travelsomerset.co.uk or by following @TravelSomerset on Twitter.

New Parking System in Place

A £1.2million scheme of improvements to car parks and signage in Taunton is ready to go live.

The Council will implement the new pay on exit system at the Orchard, Tangier, Canon Street, Wood Street, Castle Street and Enfield car parks on 4 February.

This will link into Variable Message Signing (VMS) in place at key locations in Priorswood Road, Cross Keys, Toneway, East Reach, Silk Mills and Wellington Road.

The Traffic Regulation Order which brings the changes into effect is being published this week following a period of testing and training to ensure the complex system of barriers, payment methods and links is working.

The Council will staff the car parks initially to help introduce the public to the new system and answer queries.

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for Planning Policy and Transportation, said: “As the first Garden Town in the South West we are committed to delivering major regeneration in the town centre, new sustainable communities, improved transport and supporting infrastructure. These significant changes to the parking system are central to this strategy and represent our commitment to Taunton Deane’s ecology and economy. They will make a real difference to drivers, helping them to find car parking space while giving them the freedom to stay for as long as they need. The new system will also improve traffic flow, reduce air pollution and benefit local businesses.”

A new charging regime to help with clearer pricing and designation of TDBC car parks will also come into effect with the pay on exit scheme. There are small increases for some car parks. Others will remain static in their charging for short stays, while for longer stays in the majority of car parks, it will be cheaper for most people.

Spaces for Blue Badge holders will remain but the system does not allow for the one hour of additional parking in the car parks covered by pay on exit. The free hour will still be available in other car parks including the Crescent, Whirligig, Belevdere Road, Coal Orchard, Duke Street, Elms Parade and Fons George.

At the Orchard multi-storey car park in Paul Street, Shopmobility users will be able to use a discount card.

Additionally, Blue Badge holders will be able to use on-street parking as they do now.

Public Space Consultation

Plans to make St James Street more pedestrian friendly in the New Year have been paused to allow time for further consultation

The Council had planned to implement the closure to traffic between North Street and Lower Middle Street in January following publication of the Traffic Regulation Order and statutory consultation

Although the TRO consultation generated 31 letters of support and only 19 against, local traders also organised a petition against the proposals which received just over 300

The Council has listened to their concerns and will contact all interested stakeholders with a view to setting up a working group to move the proposal forward early in the New

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for Planning Policy and Transportation, said:

“The Council is committed to making Taunton town centre more user friendly, improving the area for pedestrians and cyclists in line with its status as the first Garden Town in the South West. We aim to create a better environment for residents, shoppers and visitors, which will help attract investment and also allow businesses to thrive. With this in mind, despite having received a great deal of support for the plan, we feel it is important to listen to the concerns of those that have signed the petition. We all share a common desire to act in the best interests of Taunton so need to work together on

The public space improvement project was set to be completed in two phases with the closure of a section of St James Street followed by an 18-month trial closure of Hammet Street and East Street to all vehicles except buses and cyclists. The Council will need to re-consult on revised schemes for Hammett St and East St so decided it makes sense to reconsider St James St in this further

Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council will continue working on the details of the proposed changes with the appointed transport and urban design specialists WSP.

Businesses to have their say on hotel proposals

Taunton Deane Borough Council’s business consultation seeking views on the proposed hotel at Firepool is being run throughout October.

The Council’s Planning Committee resolved in March 2018 to grant outline planning consent for a mixed use development at Firepool, including a new hotel.   The separate decision to build the hotel as a council led commercial venture was deferred in order to consult with local businesses.

The Council has now produced a leaflet with information about the project, the reasons for it and the benefits it is expected to bring.  It also explains the wider commercial approach the council is taking and how the proposed hotel investment is part of that.

Points raised by businesses from the consultation will help to inform the Council’s approach to the hotel project and other commercial ventures that the Council may develop in the future.

Cllr John Williams, Leader of the Council said: “The proposed hotel is a key part of our plans for the regeneration of Taunton town centre and could be a huge asset, bringing significant money into the local economy and creating jobs at both the construction and operational stages for local people.

However we respect that local businesses want to have their say and are keen to hear their opinions through this consultation. Following the departure of St Modwen as the Council’s development partner at Firepool, we are also taking the opportunity to reflect and listen to different ideas coming forward locally in shaping and developing this important town centre site.”

The business consultation will run from Monday 1st October to Wednesday 31st October. All the details and a link to the consultation can be found on the consultation page of Council’s website https://www.tauntondeane.gov.uk/consultations/

Pay on exit going live this autumn

Pay on ExitThe new pay on exit parking system is due to go live in seven Taunton car parks this autumn.

The council is working with contractors to complete the installation of equipment at the Orchard, High Street, Tangier, Canon Street, Wood Street, Castle Street and Enfield car parks.

The complex work which has included ground works, installation of barriers, machines and cabling, is due to finish by end of this month. A period of testing and training will then take place with the aim of going live in early November.  This means customers will be able to take advantage of the new arrangements in the busy Christmas period.

The Council has already installed Variable Message Signing (VMS) at key locations such as Priorswood Road, Cross Keys, Toneway, East Reach, Silk Mills and Wellington Road.

The VMS systems will help drivers to find car parks and know how many spaces are available and the type of parking – short stay, long stay and commuter. It will also avoid them having to drive around to find a suitable space and should ease queuing and reduce congestion.

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for transport and parking, said: “This £1.2million scheme of significant improvements to car parks and signage should make a real difference to drivers in Taunton. VMS will really improve the flow of traffic and help drivers find the space they need quickly and efficiently, while pay on exit will mean people do not have to rush back to their cars while shopping, dining or on business in the town. This is a great example of the Council working to make parking easier for residents and visitors while improving the traffic flow and in turn reducing air pollution. I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements in place.”

A new charging regime to help with clearer pricing and designation of TDBC car parks will also come into effect with the pay on exit scheme. Changes to the designations of the car parks will give users a clear understanding of where parking is available and for how long you can stay there. There are small increases for some car parks. Other car parks will remain static in their charging for short stays, while for longer stays in the majority of car parks, it will be cheaper for most people.

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