VISITORS to Minehead can now cycle from neighbouring villages into the town centre following the completion of a controversial new £1 million cycle route along the A39.
Work began last September to widen the existing footpath and cyclepath along the A39 between Minehead and the Marsh Lane housing development in Dunster.
The scheme had a rocky route to completion, with work being suspended in late April after residents’ complaints about queues on the A39 caused by the temporary traffic lights.
The new cycle route along the A39, looking from Dunster toward Minehead.
Following the introduction of overnight working, the new route was completed on June 30, meaning pedestrians and cyclists can now access Minehead town centre much more easily.
The new route, funded entirely by Somerset Council, begins at the junction of Marsh Lane and the A39, linking up an existing cyclepath built by Strongvox Homes as part of a development of 54 houses.
It runs along the northern side of the A39 in the shadow of the Conygar Tower, near Dunster, all the way to the Seaward Way roundabout at the eastern entrance to Minehead.
From there, schoolchildren can cross the roundabout safely and walk or cycle to West Somerset College, which recently received a share of £847,000 from the Department for Education to help disadvantaged pupils in rural areas.
Those wishing to reach the town centre more rapidly can instead be connected to the existing cycle network, which links residential streets to a number of key amenities along Seaward Way.
Land on the corner of Seaward Way and the A39 Bircham Road was set aside by Somerset West and Taunton Council before its abolition as a possible future site for a public swimming pool, although a business case for the site has yet to be prepared.
Just along the road, construction is proceeding on the Rainbow Way housing development which will deliver 54 new zero carbon council houses with good access to the town centre and a short walk from the town’s community hospital and minor injuries unit.
The existing cycle paths lead on past the town’s McDonald’s restaurant on Vulcan Road and provide an easy route to both the seafront, via a railway level crossing, and the terminus of the West Somerset Railway, near the Beach Hotel.
The council has not confirmed whether the scheme was completed on budget, stating: “We are happy to confirm work to complete the route concluded on Friday, June 30. The final cost for the scheme has yet to be submitted.”
The council received a further £1.5 million in mid-May from the Government’s active travel fund which can be spent on individual schemes to encourage walking and cycling across Somerset.
Council officers declined to specify which parts of the county would benefit from the funding, stating only that the successful schemes would have to ‘provide people with attractive choices to use cycling and walking for local journeys’.
Unconfirmed reports on social media have suggested the existing, narrow cyclepaths could be enhanced and widened to the west from Dunster as far as the edge of Carhampton.
A spokesman said: “The £1.5 million awarded recently from Active Travel England will be based on final design negotiations and benefit/cost appraisals with the Department for Transport.
“We will make an announcement when the scheme is approved for funding and begin engagement with the relevant communities soon after.”