A major project to revitalise the River Avon corridor and create a traffic-free route between Bristol and Bath has taken a step forward with a funding award of £295,000 from the West of England Combined Authority, to develop plans for a new bridge at Somerdale in Keynsham, it has been confirmed today (January 30).
WaterSpace Connected aims to enhance the ecology of the riverside and enable people across the West of England to move by walking, wheeling or riding between the two cities via a green, nature-rich river valley.
One of the key parts of the project is a bridge at Somerdale over the River Avon, providing an active travel and recreational route between Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire by linking Keynsham with Hanham.
This first phase of WaterSpace Connected also includes enhancing the ecology of the area, developing green spaces along the river corridor and improved paths and wayfinding.
On Friday (January 27) the West of England Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, approved an initial award of £295,771 of revenue funding to develop a full business case for the project.
Alongside this, Bath & North East Somerset Council is contributing £160,931 in match funding. The council is leading the project in partnership with South Gloucestershire Council and Bristol City Council.
People can find out more about the vision for the project by watching the WaterSpace Connected video.
Councillor Sarah Warren, Deputy Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council and cabinet member for climate and sustainable travel, said: “The proposed footbridge and improved paths will open up many possibilities for people to travel along the River Avon corridor in a traffic-free environment, or simply enjoy the nature of the river – a hotspot for important wildlife such as otters, bats and cormorants. For the first time, residents in Bath and North East Somerset will be connected via the riverside to South Gloucestershire and beyond, providing a strategic route to and from Bristol.
“We are committed to tackling the climate and ecological emergencies and encouraging sustainable travel is a key part of this. I’m delighted that this funding means we can now take the first step in the WaterSpace Connected project by designing and delivering the bridge, alongside upgrading the paths and enhancing the ecology of the riverside.”
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “In order to reach our ambitious net-zero targets locally, we need to make it as easy as possible for locals to choose to walk, wheel and cycle their way across our West of England Mayoral region, particularly for those shorter everyday journeys. I’m proud a £295,000 cash injection from my West of England Authority means we can get on with progressing plans for WaterSpace, in particular the bridge between Keynsham and Hanham which will be a great boost to getting people out of their cars and connecting our brilliant region. This is part of an overall £3.2 million investment from the Combined Authority to inject that long-term, significant investment to help transform people and communities, and make our amazing region an even better place to call home”.
South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for sustainable transport, Cllr Steve Reade, said: “Connecting our communities so that both people and nature can move and thrive is central to our plans to make zero carbon active travel a real option for residents, as well as to boost local recreation and deliver nature recovery.
“This new bridge at Somerdale will provide a crucial green link between Hanham and Keynsham and, as part of the WaterSpace project, plays an important role in local and regional Climate and Nature Emergency work and green recovery plans.”
There will be match funding from Bath & North East Somerset Council including Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy funding and a £1.3m contribution from Taylor Wimpey towards the construction of the bridge as part of its Somerdale development.
The final business case for the footbridge and accompanying improvements is expected by the end of 2024 with the first phase of the WaterSpace Connected project expected to be completed in 2027.