A scheme to plant 20,000 trees and shrubs along a stretch of the North Devon Link Road begins on Friday (September 6).

The tree-planting is part of advanced work being undertaken ahead of the start of the main improvements to the A361.

The trees will be planted along a 10km stretch between Filleigh and Portmore, where work to widen the road is due to start in 2021.

Devon County Council chairman John Mathews will be joined by North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones and Vice Lord-Lieutenant Lady Arran in planting the first trees of the scheme.

Councillor Mathews said: "We're all aware how important trees are for our environment so this planting scheme is an extremely positive step.

"The plantings will have time to establish themselves before work is due to start in 2021 and this will help create new wildlife habitats.

"None of this work could be carried out without the co-operation of numerous local landowners and our thanks go to them."

The planting at the side of the road will help establish ecological habitats ahead of the road being widened, and will screen the road from surrounding areas.

As the scheme progresses, further environmental compensation will be carried out throughout northern Devon to enable the scheme to achieve biodiversity net gain.

Devon County Council is due to submit its full business case for the North Devon Link Road scheme to the Department for Transport in summer 2020.

A range of surveys are being carried out on the road and the land next to it throughout this year.

Mr Heaton-Jones said: "This is another important step forward in the ambitious scheme to deliver major improvements to the North Devon Link Road.

"We've achieved the biggest investment North Devon has seen in recent years, with more than £80 million from the government and £10 million from the county council.

"The environmental aspects of this scheme are incredibly important, which is why I'm so pleased that an extensive tree-planting programme is now getting underway. This is a very significant day for North Devon and I'm delighted to be able to take part."

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council's cabinet member for infrastructure, development and waste, said: "Improvements to the link road are vital to the economy in northern Devon and it's good to see progress continuing to be made.

"I'm sure everyone will welcome this next step of preparatory work for this scheme."