A date of November 2020 has been announced for the start of a £93million upgrade of the North Devon Link Road.

The scheme to widen a 7.5km stretch of the A361 from the Portmore roundabout in Barnstaple to Filleigh Cutting near South Molton had planning permission granted earlier this year.

A Devon County Council cabinet meeting on Wednesday (May 15) saw councillors agree to go ahead with plans for a pedestrian and cyclist underpass at Bishop's Tawton Junction and a pedestrian and cyclist bridge at Landkey Junction.

Further consultation had been carried out by the council over the plans for Bishop's Tawton and Landkey junctions, with a preferred option decided, and the cabinet on Wednesday agreed to approve those schemes to the planning permission stage.

The cabinet also approved the appointment of a contractor to undertake advance planting and associated works to an estimated value of £500,000.

They were told that to remain on programme some advance planting must now be undertaken in 2019 to achieve a 12-month establishment period prior to the start of main upgrade works in November 2020 starting.

The November 2020 start date is the first time a date for when the main works would begin has been mentioned.

Cllr Andrea Davis, cabinet member for infrastructure, development and waste, when the overall scheme was agreed, said that the road is the lifeblood of North Devon, a massive priority to businesses and residents and it was a landmark decision which was the is the biggest thing to happen to North Devon in a generation.

Speaking at Wednesday morning's meeting, she said that during the initial consultation phase concerns about the junctions at Bishop's Tawton and Landkey had been raised and these schemes were to improve the situation.

She said: "Residents were concerned that the nature of the proposed widening at Bishop's Tawton roundabout would negatively impact cyclists and pedestrian's ability to safely cross the road.

"Children had to cross the road as the school is on the other side of the road to the village and watching children run out across the Link Road was quite awful to watch.

"The upgrades make the junction wider, so it would make it worse to cross the road, and following consultation, an underpass seemed to be the best option.

"The underpass is wide, it will be well lit, and you can see one end from the other. I am not a fan of them but I am confident I would go down there at night."

She added that during the consultation phase of the planning process, Landkey Parish Council highlighted the need for a segregated pedestrian crossing at Landkey Junction and they were concerned that the new development takes place would be completely cut off from the village, so a footbridge would be put in place, that would also take pedestrians away from having to cross the road.

Cllr Richard Edgell, who represents the Chulmleigh and Landkey ward, said that the cycle and pedestrian link was key. He added that an underpass is of concern to people who live very close to it so it was vital that it is well maintained and well lit, but said: "These proposals have very strong local support and will be a much safer place."

Cllr Jeremy Yabsley, who represents the South Molton ward, added that he welcomed the work and said this was the right thing to do.

The cabinet unanimously agreed that a planning application for the Bishop's Tawton scheme would be submitted in summer 2019, with the view to begin procurement in winter 2019.

Construction would likely begin in 2021 or later to minimise disruption once the phasing of the 'main works' between Portmore and Filleigh.

The planning application for the Landkey scheme will be submitted in 2019, once the design for the scheme has been finalised.