Improvement works begin but Dunster is open for business

The main road through Dunster is now closed for major water and highway improvements – but the village remains open for business.

Work began on Monday to replace ageing water mains and carry out several highway improvement schemes in the village. It has been planned jointly by Somerset County Council and Wessex Water to minimise disruption.

To carry out the work safely and as quickly as possible, the A396 West Street will be closed at all times until the end of March. Although the road is closed to through traffic 24/7, the village and most businesses will remain open as usual.

Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “It has been well publicised that the main road through Dunster will be closed so we can carry out these essential improvement works.

“The road has to be closed for safety reasons and we strongly urge people to respect the signs for their own protection. But we’re really keen to spread the message that it is just the road that will be closed.

“Car parks will be open and people will still be able to access the village and its many shops, pubs and businesses.

“Dunster is a great location for a day trip or short break so please help support the local community who have been so patient and understanding in these difficult circumstances. Dunster is very much open for business and pleasure.”

The essential water supply improvements by Wessex Water and the highway work by Somerset County Council can only be carried out under a full road closure due to the narrow streets. Both organisations are carrying out work at the same time to reduce the impact that separate schemes would cause.

The existing water mains in Dunster 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.

Somerset County Council is also planning several other projects to improve facilities. These include:

  • Upgrading traffic signals. 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 natural stone 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.

Following discussions with the Dunster community, the work was arranged to take place outside the main tourist season, between January and Easter, to minimise inconvenience and disruption.

A public meeting was held in the village back in October to discuss the plans with residents and businesses and resolve any issues before work begins.

Full details about the scheme, including a Q&A put together following the public meeting, can be found online at www.somerset.gov.uk/dunsterworks. There is further information about Wessex Water’s supply work at www.wessexwater.co.uk/dunster.