Strawberry Line to remain closed due to Bristol Water works
PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 December 2017
Work to improve the water supply to hundreds of thousands of homes has been delayed due to bats on a major cycle route.
Bristol Water has now placed more than half of the 30km pipeline between Cheddar and Barrow Gurney which will provide improved water security to more than 280,000 homes and businesses across Somerset.
Part of the Strawberry Line was closed earlier this year and a diversion put in place while work on the £27million pipeline continued.
But due to bats inhabiting one of the line’s tunnels it has had to remain closed, despite workers originally hoping to reopen the tunnel for the summer holidays.
A company spokesman said: “We are aware of the significance of the tunnel to the local area and our intention had 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 its temporary diversion until further notice.”
The bats inhabit Shute Shelve Tunnel which has already caused problems for the water company, following a rock fall in October last year which also delayed work.
Bristol Water has had to install safety netting in the cave to ensure it is safe to continue. However this was also delayed due to roosting bats.
The spokesman added: “We have been working with Natural England and the council to prevent bats from roosting in the tunnel while works are ongoing, but these measures have not been effective.
“The line and tunnel habitats are important sites for bats and many other species of flora and fauna; therefore, we are endeavouring to minimise our impact on the natural environment.”
The ongoing environmental issues led the company to decide to complete as much work on the line as possible before hibernation season and to keep the tunnel closed over the festive period, with no confirmed date for its reopening.
A Strawberry Line committee spokesman said: “Once the work is finished, high pressure water will be sent down it to test it for leaks and there is a time factor in this.
“We will make sure everyone will know when the line is ready to be open to us all again.”