This week the North Devon Gazette launches a campaign to support plans for improving the vital A361/A39 gateway

Improving the A361/A39 Link Road will provide a huge boost to the economy of North Devon and Torridge.

Those were the words of county councillor Andrew Leadbetter, reacting to news that the Government has confirmed £1.5million in funding will be provided to develop a business case for the new road.

Mr Leadbetter, the county’s cabinet member for economy and growth, added: “We will now be able to step up a gear and start looking to carry out essential surveys, assessments and consultation before a preferred scheme is identified.”

The news comes in the same week the Gazette launches its A Better Link for North Devon campaign to support the bid for upgrading the road.

During the coming weeks and months we will look at this vital lifeline for local prosperity, what it means to the people who use it and how it can be improved.

Gazette editor Andy Keeble said: “The link road is vital to the success and growth of North Devon.

“We have a real chance to make a case for what would be some of the biggest local infrastructure improvements in a generation.

“Now is the time to fight for a better link for North Devon and the Gazette will be backing the bid all the way.”

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones said: “I’m delighted that the Gazette is launching this campaign.

“The timing is perfect – we’ve just received confirmation from the Government that the county council is receiving £1.5million to pay for the initial planning of the project.

“This includes a detailed ‘business case’ report, setting out the reasons why we need these improvements.

“The highways team at the council needs as much information as possible to put this together, so anyone who would like to contribute should contact them, either directly or through my office.

“It would be particularly good to hear from the business community about the need for these improvements and how North Devon’s economy would benefit.

“Later this year we will be making a formal bid for the new pot of money announced by the Chancellor for the actual works themselves.

“At that stage it will be really important that we all get behind the bid, so again all supportive letters will be helpful.

“I was determined to move ahead quickly with this after the election and we’ve moved a long way in just nine months.

“With the help of the Gazette campaign, we have an even better chance of achieving our goal.”

Plans in the pipeline

The funding will add to £200,000 a year the council has already allocated, as part of its £1m budget for developing designs.

A number of junction and roundabout improvements on the A361 and A39 corridor have already been upgraded through its ‘The Gateway to Northern Devon’ strategy.

The first phase of Roundswell Roundabout improvements were completed in September 2014 and the off-slips at Junction 27 of the M5 improved last year.

The council is now looking at options on the South Molton to Barnstaple section, which carries consistently high traffic flows.

Design work is almost complete on a £1.5 million upgrade of Portmore Roundabout, funded through the LEP Growth Deal and private developer contributions, although timing is uncertain until land ownership issues are resolved.

Other improvements also in the pipeline are Heywood Roundabout, Landkey junction and two right turn junctions between Abbotsham Cross and Haywood road roundabout.