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West Country (E)

A358 priority for improvements

The Leaders of Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council have welcomed news that the A358 is now being looked at as a priority for improvements.

The Highways Agency is currently carrying out phase 2 of a feasibility study to consider improving the A303/A30/A358 and had initially identified five stretches to look at in detail.

It has now been announced that the section of A358 between Southfields Roundabout at Ilminster and the M5 at Taunton will also be included as part of phase 2.

It is expected that the Highways Agency will publish their findings in time for the Government’s Autumn Statement, which will reveal the next round of funding allocations for future projects.

Anyone who regularly drives along the A303/A358 corridor will know that improvements are much needed and that’s why we as a council have been lobbying the Government to take action.

I’m delighted this section of the A358 has been added as one of the priority areas. We will now see what happens in the autumn, but I’m pleased to hear that the Government is listening to us in Somerset.

– Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council

This is excellent news as improvements to the A358 and junction 25 have been recognised as major impediments to our ambitious regeneration plans and economic development, so high on my agenda.

I have long pressed for improvement to this road and junction and it is great to see it move up the agenda, also that it is now being actively considered by the Highways Agency with the expectation of consideration in the Government's Autumn Statement.

Any improvements to this route will be welcomed by motorists and residents to relieve the daily misery of the intolerable queues and delays and the resultant pollution. This major step forward is welcomed by the Borough Council.

– Cllr John Williams, Leader of Taunton Dean Borough Council

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Pothole claims soar after severe winter

The average bill for pothole damage now runs at £247 Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The number of motorists demanding compensation for cars damaged by potholes has gone through the roof.

Wet weather caused chaos on the region's roads with councils struggling to cope with the number of claims from frustrated owners.

Potholes are currently costing British motorists an estimated £730 million per year.

It only costs £52 to repair the average pothole, although some bills for damage caused by potholes are coming out at 50 times this cost.

Somerset County Council was the worst hit, with figures showing there were 204 claims lodged in January and February.

West Country (E)

Government increases farmers' flood fund share

The Environment Secretary has revealed that just a small proportion of the fund set up to help farmers recover from the floods has actually been spent.

So far just 40 farmers have been successful in claiming any money from the £10m fund - with many complaining it is too difficult or too complicated to apply.

Until now farmers in affected areas have been able to apply for up to £5,000. Today Owen Paterson was in Somerset to announce that was rising to £35,000.

Robert Murphy reports:

If you're a farmer and need some help applying for the flood recovery fund, you can ring Somerset County Council on 01823 355427 and speak to Abigail Vickery and Anne Langdon.

West Country (E)

Environment Secretary accepts farmers' criticism

The Environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has accepted criticism from farmers who have complained it is too difficult to apply for flood recovery money.

The minister was in Somerset this morning to announce the next phase of funding.

Until now, flooded farmers could only apply for up to £5,000. Now they can apply for £35,000 worth of relief.

But some farmers say the forms are too complicated and difficult to complete.

If you're a farmer and need some help applying for the flood recovery fund, you can ring Somerset County Council on 01823 355427 and speak to Abigail Vickery and Anne Langdon.

West Country (E)

How £20 million flood plan money will be spent

Details have been revealed of how £20 million pounds will be spent on the Somerset Levels to prevent flooding. It includes raising a road near Muchelney - which was completely cut off by the flood water.

And that's just one of many schemes Somerset County Council says could be finished by the end of the year. Our Somerset correspondent David Woodland reports.

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Somerset Council to spend £38 million on building projects

Somerset County Council has this afternoon announced it will be spending over £38 million on major building projects from school classrooms to fixing roads.

The plans released in papers to be discussed by a Scrutiny Committee today include £23 million to be spent on roads and bridges and £3.5 million will help provide school places across the county.

These are very ambitious projects, and in some cases urgent ones.

Not a penny of this £38 million investment will be money borrowed by the Council. All the investment will come from either our own funds, or grants from the Government and other bodies.

We will be spending more than a million pounds replacing rundown temporary classrooms, and it is vital that we give our children the best possible opportunity to learn, that means the best buildings we can provide.

– Council Leader John Osman

The £38.72 million is allocated for projects starting in the next financial year and does not include £21 million earmarked for the new Northern Inner Distributor Road for Taunton.

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