Proposals for £200 million North Devon Link Road Strategic Outline Business Case

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Posted on: 7 October 2016

Proposals to submit the Strategic Outline Business Case for improvements to the North Devon Link Road will go before Devon County Council’s Cabinet next week (Wednesday 12 October).

Following examination of feedback from the recent public consultation, the County Council is preparing a £200 million business case, which it is now looking to present to the Department for Transport (DfT).

The 30km scheme in the Strategic Outline Business Case will include:
• Improvements to seven junctions – Borners Bridge, West Buckland, Landkey, Portmore, Rumsam, Westleigh, and Heywood Road roundabout;
• A new junction at Brynsworthy to the west of the current A39 Roundswell roundabout;
• Additional overtaking lanes from Filleigh Estate to Portmore roundabout and from the new junction at Brynsworthy to Westleigh; and
• Proposals for a four-lane section between Landkey and Brynsworthy, to increase capacity where traffic flows are much higher. This would be two lanes in each direction without a central reservation, but the speed limit would have to be reduced to maximum of 50mph.

More than 1,300 responses were received during the consultation, with 95 % backing the idea of improvements to the Link Road. Further exploration of proposals for junction and link improvements was supported by 88%, while 32% wanted a dual carriageway to be investigated.

The section from South Molton to Barnstaple received the strongest backing with 89%, followed by the route around Barnstaple (79%) and then the section from Barnstaple to Bideford (67%).

Businesses prioritised an upgrade to road network over public transport improvements, with 60% of all respondents rating road links to the rest of the country as the highest priority for their business. 82% of businesses said that the North Devon Link Road was ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ to their business.

The North Devon Link Road is seen as a factor which is preventing Northern Devon’s economy from performing to its potential. It suffers from congestion during peak hours, particularly between Barnstaple and Bideford, and along the entire stretch between Bideford and Tiverton during the tourist season. Average speeds are around 47mph on the 60mph section between Tiverton and Bideford and overtaking opportunities are limited throughout the route.

Although the number of collisions is relatively low compared to other Devon A-roads, the rate of fatal and serious incidents is higher than other comparable roads.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said: “The consultation has revealed overwhelming support for improvements to be made to the Link Road. The road currently offers a sub-standard gateway to Northern Devon and that was recognised by 95% of people who responded during the consultation. The feedback has helped shape the scheme proposals for the Strategic Outline Business Case and the next step is to put that case to the DfT.”

The pressures on the road, particularly at junctions in and around Barnstaple and Bideford, will be exacerbated by employment and housing development planned along the route over the next 15-20 years. Annual average daily traffic levels around Barnstaple are forecast to increase from 26,000 to 31,000 by 2031.

Although a dual carriageway would provide the biggest benefits, the high cost is likely to be unaffordable through the Large Local Majors budget, and would have a bigger impact on the environment.

The proposals to Cabinet also ask for agreement to apply for additional funding to continue the development of the scheme this financial year and next, if the Strategic Outline Business Case is approved.

Devon County Council is currently liaising with the DfT about bringing forward funding to carry out the next phase of studies to prepare an Outline Business Case and a bid to the Large Local Majors Fund, which needs to be submitted by Autumn 2017.

If the £200 million cost of the scheme is greater than the available Government funding, the scheme may have to be split into phases. Local contributions have yet to be fully identified, but Devon County Council has already committed £1 million over the next five years towards the design of the scheme.

In order to keep to the timescales for the possibility of starting construction in 2020, the Strategic Outline Business Case has to be submitted to the DfT this Autumn, otherwise there is less chance of receiving funding through the Local Majors Fund.

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