A £93million upgrade of the North Devon Link Road is another step closer to fruition.

A full business case of the scheme, which will see junction improvements and road-widening between South Molton and Barnstaple, has been backed by Devon County Council’s (DCC) cabinet.

Councillors backed the submission of the scheme to the Department for Transport (Dft), as well as approving the design of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge at Landkey.

The contract for all of the widening and junction improvements between South Molton and Portmore is expected to be awarded in the autumn. The contracts for the other junction improvements will be awarded separately.

The full case will be submitted to the Department for Transport where a final decision on the funding will be made.

Councillor Andrea Davis, DCC’s cabinet member for infrastructure, development and waste, said: “No doubt everyone will feel reassured that this important project has not been hindered or delayed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The county council remains committed to meeting its deadlines on this project in order to submit the full business case next month, and this approval from cabinet clears the way for that.

“A number of surveys still need to be carried out prior to the start of work but we remain confident of getting this scheme underway as soon as we possibly can.”

Advance construction on the scheme, subject to Government approval, is set to start later this year, with the main work starting by summer 2021.

The council has continued to progress the proposals since an outline case was approved by the DfT in 2018, and over the last six months several key milestones have been achieved.

Advance planting along the 10km length of the scheme between Filleigh and Portmore has been completed.

The scheme’s planting programme involves the planting of over 20,000 trees and bushes to establish ecological habitats before the start of construction work and further replacement of trees and bushes which will be removed.

Planning permission has been granted for new segregated pedestrian/cycle crossings of the road at Bishops Tawton and at Landkey Junction.

The additional facilities will enhance opportunities for walking and cycling in the area and tackle some of the historic severance caused by the road.