Business case will go to Ministers next week – if successful, work could start in 2020
Devon County Council has agreed to submit a £200million plan to the Government for major improvements to the North Devon Link Road.
The council’s Cabinet committee met this morning (Wednesday) to submit the business case to Ministers next week.
It is hoped work could start in 2020 if the bid is successful.
County council leader John Hart said: “We are investing in northern Devon and improving its economy.”
Both Barnstaple county councillors backed the plan.
Councillor Brian Greenslade, member for Barnstaple North, said: “There is no way in the current climate we could dual the road. This is the best option for north Devon in the foreseeable future.”
Barnstaple South county councillor John Mathews added: “This is vital to the whole economy of northern Devon.”
As revealed by the Gazette last week, the scheme will include improvements to seven junctions – Borners Bridge, West Buckland, Landkey, Portmore, Rumsam, Westleigh, and Heywood Road roundabout;
A new junction would be created at Brynsworthy to the west of the current A39 Roundswell roundabout.
There would be additional overtaking lanes from Filleigh Estate to Portmore roundabout and from the new junction at Brynsworthy to Westleigh.
Also included are proposals for a four-lane section between Landkey and Brynsworthy, to increase capacity where traffic flows are much higher. This would be two lanes in each direction without a central reservation, but the speed limit would have to be reduced to maximum of 50mph.
More than 1,300 responses were received during the public consultation in the summer, with 95 per cent backing the idea of improvements to the Link Road.
Further exploration of proposals for junction and link improvements was supported by 88 per cent, while 32 per cent wanted a dual carriageway to be investigated.
The section from South Molton to Barnstaple received the strongest backing with 89 per cent, followed by the route around Barnstaple (79 per cent) and then the section from Barnstaple to Bideford (67 per cent).
Businesses prioritised an upgrade to road network over public transport improvements, with 60 per cent of all respondents rating road links to the rest of the country as the highest priority for their business. A total of 82 per cent of businesses said that the North Devon Link Road was ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ to their business.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said: “The consultation has revealed overwhelming support for improvements to be made to the Link Road.
“The road currently offers a sub-standard gateway to northern Devon and that was recognised by 95 per cent of people who responded during the consultation.
“The feedback has helped shape the scheme proposals for the Strategic Outline Business Case and the next step is to put that case to the DfT.”
The North Devon Link Road is seen as a factor which is preventing Northern Devon’s economy from performing to its potential.
A report to members said it suffers from congestion during peak hours, particularly between Barnstaple and Bideford, and along the entire stretch between Bideford and Tiverton during the tourist season.
Average speeds are around 47mph on the 60mph section between Tiverton and Bideford and overtaking opportunities are limited throughout the route.
Although the number of collisions is relatively low compared to other Devon A-roads, the rate of fatal and serious incidents is higher than other comparable roads.
Hundreds of new homes
The pressures on the road, particularly at junctions in and around Barnstaple and Bideford, will be exacerbated by employment and housing development planned along the route over the next 15-20 years. Annual average daily traffic levels around Barnstaple are forecast to increase from 26,000 to 31,000 by 2031.
Although a dual carriageway would provide the biggest benefits, the high cost is likely to be unaffordable through the Large Local Majors budget, and would have a bigger impact on the environment.
The county council will now also apply for additional funding to continue the development of the scheme this financial year and next.
The next steps
It is currently liaising with the Department for Transport about bringing forward funding to carry out the next phase of studies to prepare an Outline Business Case and a bid to the Large Local Majors Fund, which needs to be submitted by autumn 2017.
If the £200 million cost of the scheme is greater than the available Government funding, the scheme may have to be split into phases.
Local contributions have yet to be fully identified, but Devon County Council has already committed £1million over the next five years towards the design of the scheme.