THE preferred route of a £397million improvement scheme to the A358 bewteen Ilminster and Taunton has been revealed this morning (Thursday).

Work is due to start by 2025 on converting the road between Southfields Roundabout and Junction 25 into a two-carriageway route both ways.

The project will see:

*minor improvements to the Southfields Roundabout.

*a new road south of the existing A358 shortly before the A378 at Thornfalcon, where a new junctoin will be created.

*a by pass for Henlade serving a planned industrial estate at Nexus 25 and into the existing Juncton 25 of the M5.

Highways England project manager David Stock said the option - a modified, less expensive version of one of the three previous proposals - was chosen after two rounds of consultation and careful consideration of feedback.

Mr David Stock added: “The A303/A358 is a vitally important route to Taunton, Somerset and the South West and that is why we are so committed to finding an appropriate solution to upgrading the section between the A303 and M5.

“We received over 2,650 responses during the two consultations and around 60 per cent of people said that the pink route would best serve their regular journeys.

"By removing two junctions and the link between them from the original pink route proposal, we have been able to address some of the concerns about the impact of the pink option on homes, public open spaces and countryside whilst managing affordability.

Yeovil Express:

David Stock.

“I am very grateful to everyone who took part in the consultations for helping us shape the proposal and we look forward to working on the more detailed designs for the scheme as the year progresses.”

Under the proposal traffic through Henlade will be reduced by almost 90 per cent, bring an end to daily tailbaks through the village that has led to poor air quality.

The scheme will also make journeys safer by closing existing road junctions and other private accesses directed onto the A358, where traffic turns across on-coming traffic, replacing them with several slip road type junctions.

Mr Stock said improved connectivity and reduced journey times will assist the local and regional economy by making Taunton, Somerset and the South West a more attractive place to work and do business.

He added that the Government’s Road Investment Strategy is committed to upgrading all remaining sections of the strategic A303/A358 corridor between the M3 and M5 to dual carriageway standard.

TA Highways England spokesman said: "The plan for the A358 upgrade is to create a free-flowing section of high quality dual carriageway, delivering a range of benefits to drivers including faster and safer journeys.

"The other two projects on this corridor in the Government’s first road investment period are the A303 Stonehenge and the A303 Sparkford to Ilchester dualling schemes."

The A358 is currently managed by Somerset County Council and is a mix of single and dual carriageway, carrying more vehicles than it was designed for.

The spokesman added: "Highways England has started an A358 Community Liaison Forum, with representatives from local groups, business organisations and community representatives, who will be able to feed into the proposal as more detailed plans are prepared for a further consultation, before final plans are submitted as part of the planning application process.

"The ongoing work to identify an affordable solution is delivered while still meeting the Road Investment Strategy brief, has had an unavoidable effect on the scheme programme. We are now planning to start construction of this route in the second road investment period."

MORE INFORMATION: Full details of the A358 proposals.