A £9 MILLION scheme to transform several streets in Bridgwater town centre is all systems go after the contracts were awarded.

The Celebration Mile will eventually run from Bridgwater railway station to the Northgate Docks, providing an attractive and safe walking and cycling route for both current residents and visitors to the town.

A total of £9 million was allocated within the Bridgwater town deal to deliver three key sections of the route, each of which secured planning permission from Sedgemoor District Council in mid-2022.

Somerset Council (which replaced the district council in April) has now voted to appoint Taylor Woodrow SWH Contracting, which is based in Watford, to undertake the scheme, which will be getting under way in January 2024.

The Celebration Mile is intended to provide traffic-free connections between the various regeneration efforts in the town – including the £5.2m revamp of the Northgate Docks (which also forms part of the £23.2m town deal), the Northgate Yard cinema and commercial units (delivered by the district council before its abolition) and the new health and social care academy on Salmon Parade (being funded by £19.7m from the government’s levelling up fund).

The project has been a long-standing ambition of local councillors since 2012 and is designed to make the town centre more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and shoppers with more limited mobility.

The three phases being targeted by the town deal are:

  • Improving Angel Crescent, with new business units and an improved toucan crossing over Mount Street (approved in November 2022)
  • Pedestrianising the eastern end of Clare Street, including its connections with Castle Moat, King Square and York Building (approved in July 2022)
  • Turning Eastover into a one-way street with cycling lanes, with similar changes to East Quay, Salmon Parade and the Town Bridge (approved in September 2022)

The Eastover element of the scheme is currently out to public consultation, with the public having until November 28 to give their views on the proposed changes.

The council’s executive committee formally voted to appoint Taylor Woodrow SWH Contracting when it convened in Yeovil on Wednesday morning (November 8).

Bridgwater Mercury: Parts of the town centre could be turned into one-way streets under the plans.Parts of the town centre could be turned into one-way streets under the plans. (Image: Archive)

Councillor Ros Wyke, portfolio holder for economic development, planning and assets, said: “These schemes are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Somerset, and really we need to engage all our best endeavours to deliver the spirit and the nature of these schemes.

“This scheme is an uplifting of the town centre which works alongside a number of other projects which are moving forward with pace and imagination.”

In light of high inflation within the construction industry, some changes had to be made to keep the scheme on budget – such as replacing the intended granite paving with a cheaper form of paving (sourced from quarries in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire) and scrapping plans for new façades within part of Angel Crescent.

Part of Eastover has already been upgraded as part of the council’s £1.7m revamp of the junction with the A38 Broadway and the A372 St. John’s Street, which was completed in the summer.

The Salmon Parade section may be delayed until work can begin on the new health and social academy, allowing the two schemes to “run in parallel” and reduce disruption for residents, businesses and motorists.

Stuart Martin, the council’s regeneration manager, said: “The hospital project is running slightly behind, so we’ll put that to one side and bring it back in at the appropriate time.

“I feel like we’re in a good place, and we’ve got a healthy contingency in our numbers.

“Essentially, this is about better accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, creating a better trading environment for the businesses, and providing the conditions for the town centre offer to match the expectations of the major investors already in the area, and those to come.

“We can prepare further design options for the next section of the Celebration Mile, which is the St John’s Street section running down to the railway station, and have that ready for whatever the next government funding pot might be.”

Details of the third and final round of the government’s levelling up fund are expected to be announced by chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt MP in his autumn statement on November 22.

Details of any road closures and diversions required to implement the Celebration Mile will be published on the council’s official roadworks portal in the run-up to Christmas.

To give your views on the Eastover element of the scheme, email TROinbox@somerset.gov.uk or write to Somerset Council, Traffic Management, B2 West, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY, quoting reference number KT15092023 by November 28.