Major improvements to the North Devon Link Road have been given the green light after a £60million funding boost from the Government.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today (Tuesday, November 10), approved the multi-million-pound project to upgrade the A361 between South Molton and Portmore Roundabout at Barnstaple.

The scheme will see three sections of the A361 widened between Barnstaple and South Molton and provide overtaking lanes on as much as 70 per cent of the route.

It also includes upgrades to eight junctions between South Molton and Bideford, removing uncontrolled right turns.

Devon County Council submitted a full business case to the DfT back in August, and follows the approval of an outline case back in 2018.

The scheme will cost around £70million in total, which is around £20million lower than originally expected.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council cabinet member for infrastructure, development and waste, said: “This announcement is fantastic news for local residents and for Devon’s economy.

“The upgrade of this road is the biggest transport investment in North Devon for a generation. It will help unlock the true potential of the local economy in northern Devon, and with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, that is vital at this time.

“We have been working tirelessly on this project for a number of years so it’s great to see that effort rewarded with this Government funding.

“We will now be looking to get work started as soon as we can.”

It is hoped the improvements will improve the reliability of journey times, while the junction upgrades will improve safety.

At Landkey junction and Bishops Tawton, the introduction of segregated pedestrian and cycle crossings are set to be a boost for active travel.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am delighted to announce this funding to upgrade a vital gateway between Devon and the rest of the country. These works will boost connections, cut congestion for drivers and improve people’s quality of life.

“It is a clear indication of our commitment to levelling up and investing in transport infrastructure. Through these works, we’ll improve people’s ability to travel across the South West while providing thousands with greater access to new homes and new jobs.”

Contractor Alun Griffiths has been appointed to carry out the work on the scheme, with detailed design set to get under way this month. The main construction work is due to start in the new year.

The reduction in cost has been put down to a variety of different factors.

Devon County Council said inflation is lower than had been anticipated, and planning costs had also been much lower than expected.

Negotiations with landowners mean some design changes have been made, including a reduced number of retaining walls which are no longer necessary.