As part of our Southern Resilience Scheme, which aims to secure the water supply to 280,000 across North Somerset, the Strawberry Line Cycle Way is currently diverted in the Winscombe area. This includes a diversion around Shute Shelve Tunnel.
We are aware of the significance of the tunnel to the local area and our intention has been to reopen the tunnel for the summer period. Unfortunately our work has been delayed and, following discussions with the Strawberry Line Management Committee and North Somerset Council, the tunnel will remain on this temporary diversion throughout the summer months (2017).
When work began early this year there was a rock fall within the tunnel. Therefore, work had to be suspended whilst a full investigation into this took place and a safe plan to carry out to work was devised.
We are making significant improvements to the safety netting to ensure the tunnels ongoing safety once our work has been completed. Unfortunately our work on the safety netting has had to be suspended due to the presence of roosting bats. This has meant that the tunnel will need to remain closed until this issue can be resolved.
We have been working with Natural England and North Somerset Council to safely stop bats from roosting in the tunnel whilst works are on-going but these measures have not worked to date. We are working hard with our partners to resolve this matter. The Strawberry line and tunnel habitats are important sites for bats and many other species of flora and fauna, we are working hard to minimise our impact on the natural environment and we wish to leave it in a good (if not better) condition than when we started our works.
Due to the on-going environmental issues the decision was made to complete our works before the bat hibernation period begins in October. This decision to keep the tunnel diverted throughout the summer holidays was not taken lightly. If work is not complete by the hibernation period then it could risk the path through the tunnel being on diversion until spring 2018.
The diversion of the Strawberry Line will now remain in place until completion of the construction and reinstatement works.
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