Extension to car-free Strawberry Line route between Wells and Shepton Mallet could go ahead in 2022
By Tim Lethaby
25th Nov 2021 | Local News
An extension to a popular cycling route across Somerset is expected to be approved by councillors in the new year.
The Strawberry Line is intended to provide a car-free travel route between Clevedon and Evercreech, with different sections being added over time.
Mendip District Council applied in March to extend the existing line through its own car park in Shepton Mallet, linking up Collett Park with a stretch of the former railway line leading to Wells.
The council has now confirmed these plans will come before its planning board for final approval early in the new year – meaning construction could begin later in 2022.
This news comes shortly after a new section of the Strawberry Line, leading from Wells to the Charlie Bigham site in Dulcote, opened to the public at the end of October.
The longest completed section of the lines currently lies between Yatton and Cheddar, with smaller sections being in place between Draycott and Rodney Stoke and between Wells and Dulcote.
It is hoped that the line will eventually stretch from Dulcote through to Shepton Mallet and beyond to Evercreech, following the route of the former Cheddar Valley railway line, which closed during the Beeching cuts of the mid-1960s.
Part of the former line runs alongside the A361 Cannard's Grave Road through a car park near the council's current offices within the Shape Mendip complex, and then continues under a bridge towards the Townsend shopping centre.
Under the council's proposals, a short section of cycle path created along this stretch, connecting the Tesco supermarket to the Collett Park green space.
The western end of the path will link up with existing paths around Station Road, while the eastern end will allow access to the A37 Whitstone Road via existing paths to the north of Nightingale Close.
A spokesman said: "The application is currently out for consultation regarding drainage and trees along the route.
"The application should go before the planning board in the new year."
This route was one of 14 'missing links' identified by the council in June 2020 which could encourage greater cycle use, with the Shepton Mallet stretch helping to complete the 'Somerset Circle' – a 76-mile traffic-free circuit which, when completed, would link the north Somerset coast (including Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon), Bristol, Bath, the Mendip Hills and Cheddar.
Improvements to Collett Park and the Strawberry Line have both been identified as priorities within the council's Shepton Mallet masterplan, which went out to public consultation in October and could form the basis of a bid to the government's levelling up fund.
Councillors are also pushing for improvements to the Strawberry Line at the Wells end, arguing plans for a new Lidl supermarket in the city should not be granted unless funds for enhancing local cycling routes are secured.