Major upgrades to the North Devon Link Road have been unanimously approved and called ‘the biggest thing to happen to North Devon in a generation’.

Proposed junction alterations on the North Devon Link Road, including Landkey and West Buckland. Picture: DCCProposed junction alterations on the North Devon Link Road, including Landkey and West Buckland. Picture: DCC

Devon County Council's development management committee took just 20 minutes to approve plans to widen a 7.5km stretch (just under five miles) of the A361 North Devon Link Road.

The stretch of carriageway in the plans runs from the Portmore roundabout to Filleigh Cutting.

The application also includes plans for a footbridge across the road at Portmore and improvements to the junctions at Landkey and West Buckland.

Work on the £93m scheme will begin shortly and should take around two years to complete.

The proposed scheme for the North Devon Link Road. Picture: DCCThe proposed scheme for the North Devon Link Road. Picture: DCC

Councillors were recommended to approve the scheme, saying the overriding public benefit of the road, particularly in improving highway safety and traffic flow, outweigh any minor harm it would cause.

Cllr Andrea Davis, cabinet member for infrastructure, development and waste, told the committee that the road is the lifeblood of North Devon and a massive priority to businesses and residents and it was a landmark decision.

She said: “Overwhelmingly the people of North Devon just say can you just get on with it.

“Currently there are no overtaking opportunities on this section which leads to a huge amount of frustration and delay and it can lead to in my experience poor driving decisions, so this will make a huge difference. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so please support it.”

The North Devon Link Road will see improved junctions and more overtaking lanes thanks to a £93m scheme. Picture: Tony GussinThe North Devon Link Road will see improved junctions and more overtaking lanes thanks to a £93m scheme. Picture: Tony Gussin

The committee heard the scheme would enhance the economy of North Devon, support housing and development opportunities, and will address the concerns of safety and connectivity issues of the road.

They were told a dual carriageway for the whole section was ruled out as it was too expensive and unjustifiable, and average speed cameras will be provided to address concerns about excessive speed.

Cllr Richard Edgell, who represents the Chulmleigh and Landkey ward in which some of the improvements would be made, said: “These are necessary improvements for the North Devon Link Road and the enhancement is very important economically to North Devon.”

Cllr Jeremy Yabsley, who represents South Molton, proposed the application be approved, saying it would be a huge step forward for northern Devon.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Davis added: “This is our major artery up in North Devon and is essential for our economic prosperity and development.

“Today's is a landmark decision that means our children will be able to stay in North Devon and enjoy the prosperity the rest of the country enjoys.

“The road will be safer as drivers won't be getting frustrated behind slow moving vehicles, we have removed the right turns, and will be putting in average speed cameras along there, as one of the things we get a lot of complains about is a lot of people going over the speed limit. We would all feel safer if everyone stuck to the speed limit.

“This is a good news day for North Devon and you will see work starting fairly quickly as we need to remove some trees. Landowners will be now formally approached, and by this time next year, will be quite a lot of work going on.

“It will take a couple of years as there is a lot of work, but really exciting times and is the biggest thing to happen to North Devon in a generation.”

More than £83million of government funding has been confirmed to pay for upgrades with a further £10 million coming from Devon County Council's Highways department.