Ambitious plans to upgrade Junction 25 of the M5 will be going on display to the public next month.
Junction 25 is the main access point to Taunton and also provides a critical link to the second strategic route into the South West – the A303 via the A358.
Somerset County Council has been working with partners to develop a scheme to increase the capacity of this vital link to improve traffic flow, ease peak hour congestion and unlock land for employment.
The proposed scheme involves full signalisation and enlarging of the roundabout, improved signs on approach to the junction, widening of the eastern exit, a new roundabout to access the proposed Strategic Employment Site, and improved pedestrian and cycling facilities.
It is expected to cost around £18m with allocated funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal Fund, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Somerset County Council, and developer contributions.
In a key step last month, the LEP’s Local Transport Board agreed to approve the entry business case, meaning the scheme can progress to the more detailed design and consultation stage.
Two public events will now be held next month for people to view the plans, ask questions and give feedback. The drop-in sessions take place from 2pm to 7pm at Ruishton Village Hall on Monday 19 September and at Taunton Library on Wednesday 21 September.
Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “Junction 25 is such an important location for the whole of Somerset and beyond. Not only is it the gateway to our county town, but it also links the two main strategic routes into the South West and is critical to our economy.
“It’s one of our top priorities for improvement and we’ve been working extremely hard to secure the funding we need.
“This latest decision is a significant milestone and means we can now draw up the plans in more detail and start the consultation process. I know people will be keen to find out more so please come along to one of our events and we’ll be happy to discuss the proposals with you.”
Junction 25 currently experiences congestion in both peak hours, with queues frequently extending along the A358 in both directions and occasionally backed up onto the M5.
The upgrade aims to improve journey times, reduce congestion, improve Park & Ride journey time reliability and create a more attractive access to Taunton, Yeovil and the A303 from the M5.
The scheme will also unlock access into a proposed new strategic employment site and support other planned growth across Taunton which includes 13,000 new homes and 6,000 jobs.
Cllr John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said the scheme is vitally important for Taunton and key to unlocking a major employment site at J25.
“We are working closely with our partners and it is tremendous news to hear such good progress is being made,” he said.
“The employment site could create up to 4,000 new jobs, cementing Taunton’s place as a prime location in the region.
“The investment in our area demonstrates the confidence in Taunton Deane as a place that really does mean business.
“We have always been ambitious and now those ambitions are being realised as a result of drive, commitment and sheer hard work with all our partners. We are committed to working with developers to have the first phase occupiers on the new site by the end of 2018.”
The J25 employment site proposals have won the support of local and regional business leaders and would cover an area the size of 25 rugby pitches. It would fulfil a market need for businesses needing space close to the motorway and within easy reach of the town centre, excellent local schools and first class leisure facilities.
These designs will be developed alongside Highways England’s plans to upgrade the A358.
Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley, said: “We’re pleased that plans for Junction 25 improvements are being showcased, demonstrating how this scheme will help to open up road links to the peninsula and unlock development land in Taunton. Greater connectivity is part of the LEP’s top strategic priorities; that we believe, given the right investment, will be the catalyst we need for transformational growth in this area. Therefore we are very keen to see our Growth Deal funding invested in this important scheme, as part of a package of road improvements in the HotSW area.”
Following public consultation, the next step will be for the County Council to draw up detailed plans and begin the procurement process.
If approved, construction is likely to take up to two years, with work not expected to start before 2018/19.