Works will cost £93million and take 2 years
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 in Barnstaple to Filleigh Cutting near South Molton.
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.
Councillors were recommended to approve the scheme, saying that 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 decsion.
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 committee heard that 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 that a dual carriageway for the 7km section was ruled out all the way as it was too expensive and unjustifiable, and that 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.
Cllr Ray Bloxham echoed the views of the committee by adding: “I cannot find a single reason to object to it.”
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 out children will be able to stay in North Devon and enjoy the prosperity the rest of the country involves.
“The road will be safer as drivers being 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 it 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 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 £83 million of government funding has been confirmed to pay for upgrades with a further £10 million coming from Devon County Council’s Highways department.
WHAT IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE MADE?
Arguably the biggest change will be that three large sections of the road will see an extra overtaking lane added.
In total, this will add approximately seven kilometres of “alternating overtaking” lanes to the road at the following sections:
- Portmore to Landkey (1km)
- Landkey to Swimbridge (2km)
- Swimbridge to Filleigh Cutting (4km)
These will be monitored by average speed cameras, which the council says will provide “more reliable journey times, less accidents and greater resilience”.
Average speed cameras
As part of the road safety improvements, average speed cameras will be introduced to sections of the road.
Average speed cameras, also known as SPECS, operate as sets of two or more cameras installed along a fixed route that can be from 200 metres (660 feet) to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in length.
The following improvements will also be made:
- Buckleigh Road junction, Bideford – conversion of three-arm priority junction to three-arm signalised junction
- Heywood Road roundabout, Bideford – increase the size of the roundabout to allow more lanes for traffic to travel through the junction and add a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists
- Westleigh junction, Bideford – additional westbound lane to increase capacity at the signalised junction
- Bishop’s Tawton roundabout near Barnstaple – increase the size of the roundabout to allow more lanes for traffic to travel through the junction
- Landkey roundabout near Barnstaple – conversion of a three-arm priority junction to a four-arm roundabout to access proposed development
- West Buckland junction – conversion of staggered priority junction to grade separated junction to improve safety
- Hacche Lane junction near South Molton – conversion of priority junction to restrict right turning movements to improve safety
- Borner’s Bridge junction near South Molton – conversion of priority junction to roundabout to improve safety
Explaining the proposals, the report says the main two reasons for the improvements are safety and the economy, as the road is predominantly single carriageway between South Molton and Barnstaple, with just 10 per cent overtaking opportunity over the 16km.
Objectives for the scheme
- Reducing journey times for commercial and non-commercial journey purposes between Barnstaple and Bideford (significant congestion occurs at the key junctions on the corridor particularly at peak times) and the M5 and Barnstaple (to improve connectivity between Bideford, Barnstaple and the wider transport network, including key access points to the national transport network (mainline stations at Tiverton Parkway, and Junction 27 of the M5), particularly in peak season)
- Improving highway safety through reducing the rate of fatal and serious accidents on the NDLR (accidents occur at various locations due to overtaking and junctions.)
- Improving network resilience through reducing the effects of accidents and incidents on the NDLR (the nature of the road at 7.3 meters wide means small scale works or minor incident can mean a road closure.)
Devon County Council’s development management committee unanimously approved the plans.