Conservative Ian Liddell-Grainger, who represents Bridgwater and West Somerset, says Somerset County Council will be setting back West Somerset’s post-Covid recovery when it shuts the A358 from June 14.
The council needs to resurface 600 metres of the road at Combe Florey which it says is in need of ‘urgent repair’ and will shut the road from 9.30am to 3.30pm on weekdays, until June 25.
But Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the closure will deal a heavy blow to the West Somerset business community just as it was starting to get back on its feet, post-lockdown.
“The council could hardly have chosen worse timing,” he said. “It was bad enough to have this road closed for several weeks earlier in the year, with all the tortuous traffic diversions that that involved.
“But to do this just as the summer season – and possibly the most crucial summer season anyone can remember – is getting underway is absolutely mindless.
“I don’t know who has decided to proceed with this delayed scheme now but clearly they have never had to run a business.
“It must be abundantly clear to anyone at County Hall how much disruption any closure of the main route into West Somerset entails at any time of the year what with traffic being diverted miles out of the way.
“But to blunder ahead with this closure without considering the consequences for businesses is a truly lunatic decision.”
Announcing the works, Cllr John Woodman, the council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We’ve carried out a significant number of works during lockdown, including major repairs to the roadside embankment and improvements to the highway drainage system on the stretch of A358 near to this location.
He added: “Resurfacing works have still had to be prioritised in order of urgency and it’s inevitable this work will need to continue as we move out of lockdown – fortunately this particular work will have been completed before the summer holidays.
“We are aware there will be an impact for businesses and residents, so every effort will be made to keep the duration of the works to a minimum.”
But Mr Liddell-Grainger said the works should have been delayed until after the summer season.
“In case the county council hadn’t realised, West Somerset’s economy is tourism-based and anything which makes it more difficult for visitors to get to and from it is going to have a measurable, negative effect,” he added.
“If the work cannot wait – and I remain unconvinced that a few months’ delay would make any great difference – then at least it should be carried out at night so that it causes the least, rather than the most, disruption.”