North Somerset Council's application for the Weston Package was given the final go-ahead yesterday by transport minister Norman Baker, who described it as "a great scheme that will support employment, reduce congestion and make it easier for people using public transport in and around Weston-super-Mare".
Weston Package received approval for £10.4m of DfT funding last year, and has been awaiting final approval for the detailed elements of the scheme to allow a contractor to be appointed so work can begin.
The Weston Package improvements at junction 21 will include widening the M5 southbound sliproad and A370 approaches, an additional lane on the roundabout and new computer-controlled traffic lights to improve access to and from the M5 motorway and the A370.
The work to increase capacity at junction 21 is one of five schemes that make up the Weston Package. The other four schemes are:
- dualling of Marchfields Way between the Winterstoke and Drove Road roundabouts, to allow two-way traffic and provide extra walkways and cycle routes, as well as a new bus lane in Winterstoke Road West
- new car park and bus interchange at Worle Station plus improved cycle and motorcycle facilities
- new bus links from Queensway to Worle Station
- bus priority along Elmham Way, linking the new housing areas.
Alongside the DfT-approved works, the council is taking the opportunity to make further improvements at junction 21, by creating a dedicated lane on the A370 outbound approach to the motorway roundabout that goes straight on to the M5 northbound slip road, which will also be widened. These additional works will be funded by council capital expenditure and S106 contributions from developers.
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, executive member with responsibility for highways and transport, said: "To get this green light is a really good early Christmas present for Weston and North Somerset residents. Behind the scenes highways officers have been working really hard on the detailed planning of this package and I am very grateful for the long hours put in over recent months to ensure the scheme fully meets the DfT criteria and local expectations. I am now looking forward to seeing the first spade going into the ground as soon as possible".