BUSY STRETCH: A303 Marsh improvements
The A303 At Marsh On The Somerset-Devon Border, Image: Daniel Mumby
A busy stretch of the A303 won’t be upgraded in the near-future if plans to dual the A358 are approved.
National Highways is gearing up for a fresh round of public consultation on its plans to dual the A358 between Junction 25 of the M5 at Taunton and the Southfields roundabout near Ilminster.
If approved, the new road will help to provide an unbroken stretch of dual carriageway between the M5 and the M3, cutting journey times for local residents and holidaymakers.
But National Highways has now confirmed that the short stretch of dual carriageway on the A303 at Marsh – on the Somerset-Devon border – will not be improved or extended if the A358 dualling scheme goes ahead.
This comes just a month after the agency (formerly known as Highways England) said it had no plans to upgrade the regularly congested Eagle Tavern junction between Marsh and Ilminster.
The A303 moves from dual carriageway to single carriageway at the entrance to the Blackdown Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), not far from the village of Horton west of Ilminster.
The only exception is the short stretch at Marsh, where the road crosses the River Yarty into Devon and then climbs steeply before mergin with the A30 near Yarcombe.
The Marsh stretch was created in 1976 to bypass the village, and covers just under three-quarters of a mile.
Neil Winter, route manager for National Highways, said the proposed A358 upgrade would help to alleviate any traffic issues this area was currently experiencing.
He said: “We can confirm there are no immediate plans for improvements on the A303 at Marsh as part of the current roads investment strategy.
“We will continue to liaise with local councils and MPs on the route, but we are confident that our proposed upgrade to the A358 will help reduce traffic and ease congestion in the area.
“The delivery of this scheme is part of a long term aim to create a high-quality dual carriage way link between the south east and the south west, while minimising the impact on this area of outstanding natural beauty.”
National Highways last looked at the feasibility of dualling through the Blackdown Hills in 2015.
Devon County Council put forward detailed proposals in 2017 for dualling the A30 between Honiton and the junction with the A303 (also known as Devonshire Inn) – but these were ultimately not taken forward.
Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh has been lobbying the government to dual the A303 Ilminster bypass (which currently alternates being single and dual carriageway) as part of the next roads investment strategy from 2025.
National Highways will officially begin construction on Friday (October 1) of the new dualled A303 between the Sparkford and Podimore roundabouts.
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Demcoracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV