WORK on an eagerly awaited roundabout to improve road safety in West Somerset is expected to start in the autumn.

The new roundabout will be built at the junction of the A39 and B3190 near Tropiquaria, close to Washford, and is expected to take nine months to complete.

Key to the scheme is the plan to keep the A39 – the major artery into Minehead and Exmoor – open to two-way traffic as far as possible, ensuring that traffic can continue to flow freely.

The roundabout, funded by EDF Energy under its plans for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, must be in place before EDFE’s proposed park and ride facility at Washford lorry park is operational.

The construction of the roundabout and the continued traffic flow on the A39 will mean the B3190 into Watchet will have to be closed at the Tropiquaria junction.

Meetings are taking place with key stakeholders – including parish councils and traders – to ensure they are kept fully informed and that diversion routes can be well planned and signposted to minimise disruption.

The diversions are currently being finalised prior to work beginning this autumn.

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, said: “This is another significant step forward in the project.

"This means that a further piece of infrastructure is underway prior to the main work beginning on the Hinkley Point C site and will address long standing community concerns regarding safety at this busy junction.”

Cllr Hugh Davies, who is both a West Somerset and Somerset County Councillor for the area, added: “The roundabout will transform this junction improving safety for the long-term. Keeping traffic flowing on the A39 is vital for West Somerset and its economy.

"It is also important that the work takes place and is completed before the start of the main tourism season.

"All partners involved will work closely with affected communities and businesses to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum as much possible whilst construction is underway.

"Access to Tropiquaria will be provided throughout the roundabout’s construction via a diversion route.”

Cllr Tony Knight, Chairman of West Somerset Council’s Planning Committee said: “The building of a roundabout at Washford Cross was a requirement of the Planning Committee when granting permission for Site Preparation Works at Hinkley Point C.

"As a Ward Member for Watchet I am pleased that work on the roundabout is beginning as it will soon lead to a safer route for Watchet residents and visitors to the town.”