CONSTRUCTION of a new dual carriageway in Somerset will finally begin in September, transport bosses have promised.

Highways England put forward proposals in 2019 to dual the single-carriageway stretch of the A303 between the Podimore roundabout near Ilchester and the Sparkford roundabout, where the road meets the A359.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps MP finally granted permission for the £250M scheme in January 2021, with construction expected to last until 2024.

Highways England has now published details of the construction programme, and has confirmed it intends to begin work on site in the autumn.

Posting on its official Twitter account, a spokesman said: “We’re preparing to start work on the A303 Sparkford to Ilchester scheme in September.

“You might soon see some of our construction team out and about in the area. We’ll be marking out the areas of land that need fencing and setting up our site offices and compounds.”

Chard & Ilminster News: A303 Sparkford To Ilchester Dualling Construction Programme. CREDIT: Highways England. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

The scheme will see a stretch of around three miles dualled between the two roundabouts, with the new carriageway largely following the footprint of the existing road.

On an average day, the road carries 23,500 vehicles, but numbers increase significantly in the summer, particularly at weekends, with many using it as a route to the Glastonbury Festival from London and the south east.

Highways England’s south west division has confirmed the scheme will be divided into seven phases, some of which will overlap.

Chard & Ilminster News: The A303 Between Podimore And Sparkford. CREDIT: Highways England. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

Here’s a breakdown of where and when the new road will be delivered:

Podimore roundabout to Downhead Lane (via Camel Cross): The site will be cleared with fencing put up, and any utilities in the area will be diverted. Target date: September-November 2021

Downhead Lane to Steart Hill: A new compound will be created, with wildlife being relocated and a significant quantity of earth being removed to allow for construction of the new bridge. Target date: late-August 2021-October 2022″

Steart Hill overbridge: The new bridge will span the new dual carriageway to connect existing roads near the Downhead junction to the A303. Target date: September 2021-May 2022

Southern haul road and temporary bridge: A temporary road will be constructed south of the existing A303 at Howell Hill near West Camel, so that materials can be moved to and from the construction site without clogging up local roads. Target date: September 2021-May 2022

Northern haul road: A further temporary road north of the existing A303 will serve construction traffic needing to move between Steart Hill and the Hazlegrove roundabout without using the local road network. Target date: September 2021-October 2021

Camel Hill to Hazlegrove roundabout: The site will be cleared and a second compound built, with a new entrance from the roundabout being constructed to link up with existing local roads. Target date: September 2021-May 2023

Hazlegrove underbridge: This will allow the new A303 to be carried over local roads and provide a new access to Hazlegrove School. Target date: December 2021-September 2022

Highways England will be staging a virtual exhibition later in July, explaining its construction programme in more detail and revealing how traffic will be managed – including details of any long-term diversions.

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh has welcomed the news surrounding the Ilchester scheme, which straddles his constituency and the neighbouring Somerton and Frome seat currently represented by David Warburton.

He added he was pushing the government to make improvements to the Ilminster bypass (which currently alternates between single and dual carriageway) in the years to come.

He tweeted on Monday (June 28): “I have been making the case, to good reception, for dualling of the Ilminster bypass to follow on directly from the 2024-25 work on dualling the A358 from the M5 at Taunton to Ilminster.”

Further public consultation on the A358 dualling scheme is expected to take place in the autumn – though the Planning Inspectorate has warned the scheme, if approved, may not be completed until 2028.