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A303 Sparkford work
Aerial photo showing the A303 Sparkford route taking shape.

The work to provide dual carriageway on the Sparkford to Ilchester section of the A303 has been delayed by up to a year because of wet weather and environmental issues.

The three-mile stretch was originally earmarked for completion in March 2024.

But signs now say the work will not be completed until “Winter 2024/2025”.

A spokesperson for National Highways who are overseeing the project blamed bad weather and unforeseen nature conservation issues.

‘Over the past two years, we have been working hard on the A303 Sparkford to Ilchester Dualling Scheme, which was due to be open for traffic in Spring 2024,’ said the spokesperson.

‘Unfortunately, the scheme has been delayed due to the discovery of protected species within the construction site and significant periods of bad weather, including the wettest July on record, which means the road won’t be open until Winter 2024/2025.

‘We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, but please be assured we’re working hard to complete our work on this essential improvement project as quickly as possible.’

National Highways says it has already installed a new bridge, given in excess of £25,000 to community projects, installed more than 200 bird, bat, owl and dormouse boxes, protected the environment with five new flood prevention ponds and the recycling of 1,500 tonnes of vegetation, as well as assisting the community in the clean-up following the flooding earlier in the year.

However, it says the delays are not set to increase the budget for the project, which is between £150 million and £250 million.

The news comes as the work reaches a new stage with part of the route being altered from this evening.

To allow for National Highways to carry out the next stage of essential work, changes in the layout of the road around the Yeovilton Junction and Steart Hill Junction with the government-owned company saying it needs to move traffic onto the newly-built eastbound carriageway to allow space to build the new westbound dual carriageway.

The changes will affect the road between the Podimore roundabout and the Steart Hill Junction.

The changes include:

  • Eastbound traffic on the A303 will travel from Podimore roundabout and follow traffic management to take them on to the new eastbound carriageway of the A303;
  • Westbound traffic on the A303 will switch from the west bound carriageway at Steart Hill and will run temporarily on the new east bound carriageway of the A303;
  • Local traffic will have different entry and exit points to the A303. The newly built Steart Hill overbridge will be open, connecting the community of Downhead to villages to the south of the A303.

Siân Hopkins, National Highways’ Senior Project Manager for the A303 Sparkford scheme, said: ‘We appreciate the A303 is a well-used road, and we are keeping disruption to an absolute minimum.

A 303 changes
A map of the upcoming changes to the A303.

‘We understand roadworks and changes in road layout can be frustrating, but we’ve communicated the traffic switch well in advance to local communities.

‘We’re ensuring access is maintained for residents and business, and we’ll be keeping people fully informed as we continue to progress with the scheme.

‘We thank people in advance for their co-operation and patience and in the meantime, we advise drivers to plan ahead and allow a little extra time for their journeys during this work.”

The switchover will happen overnight under a full closure of the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester.

The closure will be in place between 9pm on Friday, 19 January until 6am on Saturday, 20 January. During this closure, access will remain for residents with direct access onto the A303 and a signed diversion will be in place for all other traffic.

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