Find out more about major improvements in Dunster

Dunster residents are invited to a drop-in event next week to find out more about major improvements in the village which have been planned jointly to minimise disruption as much as possible.

The work, which is scheduled to start in January and last around three months, will see Wessex Water upgrading water mains and Somerset County Council making highway improvements.

The water main work will involve replacing two mains running under West Street from the junction with Park Street to the junction with St George’s Hill and Castle Hill.

The existing mains are coming to the end of their serviceable life and have suffered a number of bursts in recent times, leading to several unplanned emergency road closures. The old mains will be replaced with modern plastic pipes to safeguard the quality of the water supply and reduce the risk of future disruptions.

Individual service pipes will be reconnected to the new mains and any metal pipes within the public highway will be replaced at the same time.

Wessex Water project manager Paul Hobbs said: “The improvement work will ensure that businesses and residents have a more reliable supply of water for many years to come.

“We’ll be using trenchless ‘no-dig’ techniques to significantly reduce how long the work takes, but due to the historic nature of Dunster and its narrow winding streets, the only way to safely carry out this work is to close the road.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We’ll be doing everything we can to complete our essential work as quickly as possible.”

Somerset County Council is to take advantage of the road closure by also planning several other projects to improve facilities. These include:

  • Upgrading traffic signals. Due to the difficulty in accessing these, the equipment has not been updated since the 1970s and faults are common. The new signals will be more energy efficient and reliable, and have been designed to make any future repairs much simpler.
  • Improvements to the footpaths on West Street. The scheme closely resembles previous improvements along the High Street which removed areas of existing cobbles and replaced with paving. The scheme was developed following safety concerns about the current uneven cobbles and is the result of a request from County Councillor Christine Lawrence in conjunction with the Dunster Working Group. They put forward a bid for joint funding from the County Council’s Small Improvement Schemes programme and the parish council.
  • Highway works in anticipation of a new doctor’s surgery. Proposals which have been agreed include traffic calming measures, improved street lighting and a tarmac strip acting as a virtual footway.
  • Finally, once all the above work is completed, the road between Park Street and High Street will be resurfaced.

Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This is a major collaboration between organisations, requiring a huge amount of forward planning with so many elements to consider.

“In many ways it would have been easier for us to carry out this work in the summer holidays when daylight hours are longer, weather is generally better and we wouldn’t need to worry about school transport or gritting roads. However, that would clearly bring further disruption to Dunster.

“We know this work will have a significant impact, but we hope people will understand the need for improvements and recognise that we have listened to the community and timed this as best we can.

“I would recommend everyone who may be affected by this scheme to come along to the drop-in event and talk to us. We’ve tried hard to think of every eventuality but please let us know of any concerns now so we can try to solve them before work begins.”

Members of the public are invited to a drop-in event at Dunster’s Tithe Barn on Tuesday 28 October from 2pm to 8pm to discuss the plans. Officers from the County Council and staff from Wessex Water will be on hand to explain how the project will work and answer any questions.

As well as full details about the works, there will be information about access for residents, parking, diversions, public transport, school buses, waste collection and emergency contingency plans.