TRADERS and residents in Melksham and the surrounding area yesterday (Thursday) gave a warm welcome to the Government’s announcement of a £135 million funding package for a new A350 bypass.

The announcement came as shopkeepers and locals cope with delays due to three months of work on the Town Bridge on the B3102 Bath Road at Melksham.

Hairdresser Jo Soper, of Hair@13 close to the bridge, said: "It sounds like good news. Hopefully, it will relieve the congestion.

"As long as it doesn't take people away from the town and they carry on using their local shops."

Patrik Bewley, of D J Bewley funeral directors on the corner of Bank Street, said: "The works on the Town Bridge are making things a little bit awkward. I think the improvements to the A350 are definitely a great idea."

John Glover, 72, a retired civil servant, of Wellington Drive, Bowerhill, also welcomed the A350 proposals, saying: "As long as it keeps clear of the existing housing and has appropriate noise reduction, it should be welcomed."

The government announced on Wednesday its intention to support to fund two major road improvement schemes - the A350 Melksham bypass and the A338 at Salisbury.

Cllr Jon Hubbard, mayor of Melksham, described the announcement as “one significant step forward.”

He added: “There are two routes being proposed but as yet even these routes are not definitive.

“We put forward a bid last year and we did not succeed in getting the money but it is good news that the Melksham projects are now going to go forward.”

One of the options under consideration could see the A350 upgraded to link with the A3102.

The other option is to skirt the whole town centre to link the northern A350 around Beanacre and Melksham to the A350 on the south side. It is understood the third option has since been discounted.

Wiltshire Council will now develop outline business cases for the Melksham and Salisbury schemes to enable them to progress to the next stage of development under the government’s Major Road Network (MRN) and Large Local Majors (LLM) programme.

Cllr Bridget Wayman, Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This is fantastic news for Wiltshire, and we’re delighted that these two schemes have been given the green light to go ahead.

“This funding prioritises the busiest and most economically important roads in the Western Gateway, and will improve connections in the south west, reducing journey times and improving the roads for the people of Wiltshire and visitors to our county.

“We also have £40m worth of other bids in the pipeline that we hope will be included in the next phase of funding announcements, including dualling the A350 at Chippenham to Lackham, and major improvements at Junction 17 of the M4."