A MAJOR project to build a £3.5 million new reservoir in west Dorset is ploughing forward - despite being started four years later than planned.

Wessex Water is building an underground service reservoir designed to hold 1.5 million litres of water at Martin’s Down, next to the A35.

It will replace an existing smaller tank at the site, which lies approximately five kilometres west of Winterbourne Abbas, in a bid to provide a more resilient water supply for customers across west Dorset.

Construction on the reservoir began in April and is expected to come to an end in early 2021. It is being built in an area of picturesque countryside - however Wessex Water gave assurances it will be buried out of sight once. On completion of the new storage tank, the existing above ground tank will be removed and the site landscaped and returned to farming where possible.

Wessex Water’s Joe Edmunds, who is coordinating the project, said: “We recently completed the concrete works to form the reservoir.

“In the upcoming months, we will connect it to our network and reinstate the beautiful Dorset countryside to its former glory.

“The site is adjacent to the A35, so throughout the project we have put measures in place to minimise the impact on road users.”

The project was announced in 2015, with construction scheduled to begin the following year. Responding to questions about the reason for delay, Wessex Water said the scheme was originally planned as part of a wider water supply grid project in Dorset, which was completed in March 2018.

A spokesman for the utility company explained that it was later decided that the Martin’s Down reservoir would form a separate scheme in its own right.

"The delay allowed further time to liaise with Natural England and archaeological experts to ensure minimal impact on the landscape," he added.

Temporary traffic lights were put in place on the A35 at Long Barrow Farm, Kingston Russell from April so work could go ahead safely.

Construction was permitted to continue after the Government officially designated water and sewerage personnel as key workers who provide an essential service during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Edmunds apologised for any inconvenience caused by the restrictions and thanked road users for their patience.