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Devon bids for five big projects

Thursday, May 12th, 2022 8:31am

By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

County hall needs finishing too

£75 million requested from levelling-up fund

Devon is pitching to get £75 million of government cash towards five major schemes.

The county council is bidding for the money in the second round of the  ‘levelling up’ fund.

The projects in the bid, agreed at this week’s meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet, include a second railway station at Okehampton, a new town centre relief road for Cullompton, and transport and town centre improvements in Exmouth.

Bids will also be submitted for money towards improvements at Lee Mill near Ivybridge and cycle route enhancements in South Devon, which also include upgrades to Newton Abbot’s Penn Inn underpass.

In a statement, Councillor Andrea Davis (Conservative, Combe Martin Rural) said: “This new bid demonstrates the Team Devon [county council and eight district councils] partnership now working to support economic recovery and growth in close collaboration with our MPs.

“These schemes will also reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, cut congestion and improve the safety, security and overall experience of transport users.

“This is the second round of bidding for levelling-up cash. We didn’t do as well as we wanted in the first round and I hope the government will look more favourably on these ambitious proposals.”

If the Okehampton railway bid is successful, it would go towards a West Devon transport hub, including a new station close to the emerging development and the junction off the A30 to the east of the town.

The Okehampton to Exeter line only reopened last year, after its regular service closed in 1972.

A report to the cabinet said it would “enable the best use of the new rail connection to Exeter” and include facilities for bus connections, cycle links/facilities and electric vehicle charging at the car park.

“The aim is to provide an interchange for Okehampton and the rural hinterland stretching up to Holsworthy, Hatherleigh and North Cornwall, which currently has poor connectivity to the national rail network,” the report added.

In Exmouth, the bid – a county council partnership with East Devon District Council – includes the completion of the Dinan Way ring road link to the A376 Exeter road. Currently traffic from Dinan Way has to use unsuitable residential roads to access the A376.

Discussions, and at times promises, for such a Dinan Way link road, have been on and off for 40 years.

The new plan includes improved pedestrian and cycle connections to the Exe Estuary trail and could improve bus journey times to Exeter. The wider bid includes other walking and cycling improvements focusing on regenerating Exmouth town centre, with a total cost of £20 million.

The bid for Cullompton is to support the £25 million town centre relief road, for which Mid Devon District Council has already secured £10 million.

However, the project is currently in limbo after its bid for funding in the first round of the levelling-up fund was rejected.

The road to the east of the town will reduce traffic through the town centre, improve capacity at junction 28 of the M5 and unlock the development of 2,000 homes as part of the district council’s local plan.

At Lee Mill, a new slip road scheme off the A38 is proposed, removing traffic from the centre of the village and allowing lorries to access the industrial estate, cutting air and noise pollution for residents.

The £15 million scheme would include a bus interchange and improvements to the cycle connections between Ivybridge and the proposed new Freeport at Langage.

Finally, the project in Newton Abbot is to enhance the cycle route to Torbay via Kingskerswell and enable more people to commute by bike. The £15 million bid,  jointly with Teignbridge District Council, should also encourage more leisure trips.

In addition, there will be improvements at the Penn Inn underpass and better connectivity to and from the new residential development at Wolborough.

Speaking at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, opposition leader Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster and Haldon) said he recognised that “we all want to see this money spent in Devon, and there’s a range of schemes here that will add benefit to so many people.”

But he added the Lib Dem group also wanted to see progress made on the Teign Estuary cycle trail, to which an extension was approved last year.

Councillor Carol Whitton (Labour, St David’s & Haven Banks) also welcomed the proposed schemes but said there was a “real problem over the way local authorities are being expected to bid into these little pots of money, putting quite an amount of work and effort which may or may not be successful.”

Devon’s councils will find out which of the bids have been successful at a later date.

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