South Somerset District Council welcomed today’s announcement as part of the government’s Autumn Statement that the A303/A358 would be dualled throughout its length and an early start would be made on sections within the South Somerset area.
Tim Carroll, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Spatial Planning, commented: “This is really great news for the host of organisations and individuals that has tirelessly campaigned over the last three decades for the A303 dualling to be completed.
I am pleased that the Sparkford/Ilchester section has been highlighted for an early start as this has been one of this Council’s five priorities for improvement along the route but we will continue to press for the rest of the sections to be done as a matter of urgency.
There were observations that congestion only occurred in the summer holiday season along this route but, as anyone local will tell you, we experience congestion and delays on a daily basis on the stretches through South Somerset which causes disruption both to our businesses and residents. In addition, there is the safety issue of the three “offset” roundabouts at Sparkford, South Petherton and Ilminster where HGVs have frequently overturned and it is a miracle that these accidents haven’t resulted in greater casualties.
The proposed early dualling of the A358 section from Ilminster to Junction 25 is also welcomed as it not only forms part of main east/west route from the M3 to M5 but also is a critically important North/South regional route from the M5 to the south coast via Yeovil and Dorchester.
This year 2014 is significant as it marks the 10th anniversary of the announcement back in 2004 by Alistair Darling that the then Labour government had accepted the recommendations of the South West Multi-modal Study that the A303/A358 would form the 2nd strategic road transport route into the South West after the M4/M5 and that the A303/A358 would be dualled along its length. Three years later, that government reversed its decision and the opportunity was lost. A clear message from the South West must now go back to all political parties in parliament that this region cannot and should not be disappointed again and we should seek their commitment to that end.
So good news for our residents and businesses and also good news for holiday makers whose abiding memory of Somerset used to be a three-mile tailback on the Ilminster Bypass – hopefully to become soon an impression of the past. On a personal level, I look forward to the day to drive down the completed A303/A358 dual carriageway before I become incapable of driving due to advanced age.”