THE long-awaited and controversial consultation into the redevelopment of the A358 between Taunton and Ilminster is set to reopen in "early 2018". 

Highways England Ltd has announced that it plans to hold a new consultation next year, following on from the one-route option it consulted on from March to July 2017. 

But a decision on the "preferred" new route wont be announced until later next year. 

David Stock, Highways England project manager, said: “Having planned to hold a supplementary consultation, we’ve now decided to widen the scope into a whole route consultation and in doing so we need more time to work on this and finalise all the consultation materials. We also wanted to avoid consulting during December and the distracting run-up to Christmas.

“This will provide the public with a chance to have a fuller say, and there will be a number of options presented for consideration, the details of which will be announced when the consultation is launched.

“We listened to all the feedback during the initial consultation and we invite everybody to come along to the rescheduled events and have their say.”

HE says it expects to make the decision on the preferred route announcement in late 2018.

RELATED: Click here for more on the consultation

There will then be a statutory public consultation on the proposal before it summits its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO). A DCO is a special type of planning application, which is needed for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

Somerset County Council (SCC) and a host of parish councils around the town all expressed concerns with the lack of choice on the table during the first round of consultation.

The A358 between Taunton and Southfields Roundabout currently comprises a mix of dual and single lane carriageway, leading to localised congestion that can have an impact on journey times. The redevelopment comes alongside two other consultations to form a better corridor to and from the South West.

The highway has poor junction alignment and visibility and changes in road type which causes safety concerns. 

A Taunton Deane Borough Council said: "TDBC is pleased that Highways England is proposing a supplementary consultation to take place in the New Year.

"Providing options for communities to comment on is a positive and welcome step, we look forward to assessing and offering our view on those options so that ultimately the right route is chosen for this critical improvement to our road network."