'Improvements could be in place in a fraction of the time it took to build new Barnstaple bridge' says man who campaigned 20 years to build it.

The man behind a 20-year campaign to build Barnstaple’s Western Bypass says improvements need to happen to the A361/A39 North Devon Link Road to keep pace with development in North Devon.

And councillor Brian Greenslade says he is optimistic that the project for a better link to North Devon could be in place in a fraction of the time it took to build the Taw Bridge.

“The Western Bypass has largely done its job, but there are no two ways about it, the volume of traffic coming in and out of North Devon has increased,” he said.

“The bridge has taken around 22,000 vehicle movements a day out of Barnstaple; it’s done its job and people can see the benefits.

Brian Greenslade. Picture: Andy KeebleBrian Greenslade. Picture: Andy Keeble

“But I travel the link road around two or three times a week and have noticed a growth in the number of articulated lorries, particularly supermarket lorries.

“The road is the only real link in and out of North Devon; it clearly needs to be improved.”

Mr Greenslade was speaking following the launch of the Gazette’s A Better Link campaign, which supports plans for improving the A361/A39 gateway.

He said he had campaigned long and hard in the 1980s for the Government to dual the road but ‘it came to nothing’.

“The link road was originally proposed to be a dual carriageway all the way from the M5 to Barnstaple, but the dual carriageway never got any further than Tiverton,” he said.

“The Tiverton to South Molton stretch opened in 1988 and the South Molton to Bideford section was opened in 1989 by Michael Portillo.”

Devon County Council launched its ‘Gateway’ consultation in 2014 after Mr Greenslade questioned the volume of traffic on the road.

“At the time, there was no plan for improvements and the county subsequently launched a consultation which detailed places that could be reasonably improved.”

Before the 2015 General Election, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, announced he was creating a £23billion South West Infrastructure Fund, which would include investment for the North Devon Link Road.

“That managed to survive the election period and the county has now got the money to develop the plans,” added Mr Greenslade.

Recalling his two-decade battle to build the Taw Bridge, Mr Greenslade said public support had helped keep the scheme in the spotlight.

He said: “There was no money in the capital programme in 1989-90 to continue development works, so we held a campaign ‘Honk Your Horn for the Bridge’ to raise awareness.

“It got a lot of attention and got money back in the capital programme for development work.

“There were 20 years from the day we received the £0.25million to when the bridge opened in May 2007, but I don’t think the link road improvements will take as long as that.

“We’ve made a breakthrough with the Government to help fund and get the project to a detailed stage.

“It’s not going to happen overnight but we’re on the right road.

“I think we’ll be looking at a phased development. A dual carriageway is unlikely, but it could be in the early 2020s that we see improvements in place.”