The next phase of major development in Monkton Heathfield will get underway this summer with the start of key road improvements.
Plans for new homes, a new local centre and the relocation of West Monkton Primary School were approved by the Planning Inspector back in 2008 and included a legal agreement for the developers Persimmon and Redrow to improve the road network.
Part of this work included the construction of the Eastern Relief Road – now recategorised as the A38 – which opened in late 2015 to provide a safe bypass around the village.
With the new primary school building now on track for an October opening, the next step will see Persimmon and Redrow deliver a package of improvements to Bridgwater Road (the old A38). These include a whole new frontage near the school and local centre, new 20mph zone, traffic calming and a bus gate.
The bus gate will be placed just past the Milton Hill junction and means only buses will be able to use Bridgwater Road. All through traffic except buses will be directed along the new A38 Eastern Relief Road instead.
These road improvements will be funded and delivered by Persimmon and Redrow and were agreed through the planning process to allow the new development to go-ahead as part of a masterplan for the whole area.
Hazel Ellis, chairman of West Monkton Parish Council, said: “We’re all looking forward to the completion of the new school and village centre which should be something the whole community can be proud of.
“The changes to the road network are key to this, as by reducing the volume of traffic on Bridgwater Road it will prevent Monkton Heathfield being split by a busy road and help preserve the community feel of the village.
“We’re pleased the work is starting soon and look forward to receiving confirmed plans from the developer.”
Ian Robinson, Headteacher of West Monkton CofE Primary School, said: “We’re very excited about our new school and very much looking forward to relocating in the autumn. However, if the school opened tomorrow I would have major concerns about children having to cross the busy road as it currently stands.
“These plans should greatly reduce the volume and speed of traffic to make a much safer environment for our children, which will hopefully encourage more families to leave the car at home and walk to school instead.”
Cllr Roger Habgood, Taunton Deane Borough Council’s executive member for planning and transport, said: “I am delighted these works are about to start as they are an essential part of this important development.
“This work will provide a better environment for residents by directing through traffic around the village and is therefore another important step in delivering the overall Monkton Heathfield urban extension.”
Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “We’ve seen a great deal of development in this area in recent years and we need to do our bit to provide the community with the infrastructure it needs.
“I’m pleased to see the new primary school taking shape, and we’re now doing the necessary paperwork so the developer can start making the agreed improvements to the local road network.
“We’ll all have to adjust our journeys to allow for these changes, but it’s a minor detour which will soon become second nature – and it will make a huge difference for the people who live in Monkton Heathfield.”
The exact dates and programmes for the road improvements are still to be confirmed by the developer but are expected to start in mid-May. The works will require a closure of Bridgwater Road at times, with though traffic instead directed along the A38 Eastern Relief Road.