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.

Taunton Town Centre Public Space Improvements

The Council is moving ahead with plans to make 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.

Phase one covering the permanent closure of St James Street between North Street and Lower Middle Street will begin in the New Year.

It will be followed by phase two which will see an 18-month trial closure of Hammet Street and East Street to all vehicles except buses and cyclists.

Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council are currently working on the finer details of the proposed phase two changes with the appointed transport and urban design specialists WSP

A further dedicated consultation will be held for East Street, where the local community can put thoughts forward about the proposed designs. If the trial is successful, the permanent changes to both East Street and Hammet Street will follow as quickly as possible.

The public space project will generate opportunities for businesses, event organisers and artists to explore creative uses of the town’s most attractive areas.  It forms part of a much wider plan to enhance Taunton’s appeal along with the regeneration of Coal Orchard and Firepool.

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for Planning Policy and Transportation, said: “Taunton becoming a Garden Town gave us a real opportunity to review our town centre and look at how we can create a better environment for residents, shoppers and visitors, which will help attract investment and allow businesses to thrive.

We’ve seen this work well in other areas, and we’re keen that traffic is redirected to more appropriate routes. We want to free up space for new and improved public areas that are attractive and inviting for everyone with fewer vehicles, less pollution and reduced noise.”

Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We’re pleased to be working alongside Taunton Deane Borough Council to support their aspirations to improve the town in keeping with its status as the first Garden Town in the South West. This scheme is all about enhancing the visitor experience in Taunton and making it more appealing for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The Traffic Regulation Order and commencement of the statutory consultation period relating to the closure of St James Street will be published on 22 November.

Further information on the TRO process and an opportunity to make representations can be found at:

http://www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-transport/road-works/tro/

To accompany this stage of works, a webpage dedicated to the Public Space Improvement Project is now live. This can be found at

www.investtaunton.co.uk/publicspace

This website contains background information on the project, and an FAQ section relating to the proposed works, and the wider context of town centre improvements that TDBC are committed to in the near future.

 

Artist Impression of St James's Street

High tech, high quality business park in prospect

Taunton Deane Borough Council is pressing ahead with its commitment to invest in the local economy after agreeing to buy a business park in Taunton.

The council is to consolidate its holdings at Lisieux Way to help protect existing high tech jobs on the site, attracting new employers and to regenerate the key employment site.

The aim is to create a high tech business park, within easy reach of the town centre and road and rail connections, with high quality companies similar to those already on the site.

“The site is already home to two important hi-tech companies – South West Pathology Services and Novanta (GSI Exotec). We want to make sure we retain such high quality businesses in the town and to attract more,” said Cllr Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader and Executive member for business development.

“We will also look at other potential uses for the site with the help of specialists that will be able to advise us.

“Taunton Deane Borough Council is seizing an opportunity to acquire an important, strategic site that will generate an income, secure existing jobs and provide opportunities for new jobs. This will result in a sound return for our investment.

“Our council must also become more commercially-minded as we look to the future. We need to generate income to replace the central funding we will lose in order to protect the vital front-line services that our residents value.

The decision was agreed by the Full Council on Tuesday (October 3) – but some details of the deal remain confidential due to commercial sensitivities.

The land is being bought from Thales – the company moved out of Taunton some years ago – to make sure that the Borough can capitalise on the economic opportunities offered.

The council plans to refurbish some existing buildings on the site initially before embarking on a more ambitious regeneration.

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