The North Devon Link (NDL) Road is the key strategic link connecting northern Devon and northern Cornwall to the rest of the country via the M5. The route is 70km long and comprises of the A361 from the M5 to Barnstaple which splits into the A39 ‘Atlantic Highway’ to Bideford and northern Cornwall and the A361 to the northern Devon Coast.
The study area
The first section on the A361 from the M5 to Tiverton is dual carriageway. The remainder, from Tiverton to Bideford, is single carriageway with limited overtaking sections.
There has been a long term local concern that the transport connections to the northern Devon area are below what the public and local businesses require. There is a very low level of economic growth in the area. Economic growth could be improved by better road connections. This has resulted in considerable pressure from the local public, businesses, and politicians for improvements to the road.
As a consequence of this, Devon County Council conducted an initial consultation on the case for an improvement to the NDL. Output from the consultation can be found in the 2014 Gateway to northern Devon consultation report . This demonstrated that there was a strong desire for improvements with over 90% in favour. The results showed support for increasing overtaking opportunities and junction improvements.
In the 2015 Summer Budget, the Government announced a commitment to ‘provide local councils with funding to support the development of business cases for the North Devon Link Road…’ Following this commitment, Devon County Council has decided to take guidance from the Government, starting looking at options.
Following initial research and consultation with stakeholders, it was decided to focus on the 20 mile section of the North Devon Link Road between South Molton and Bideford (stopping at the Heywood Roundabout, though this was later extended to Buckleigh Road).
As part of the Pinch Point Programme, a number of schemes that will unlock potential growth in northern Devon by solving congestion issues. Two major priorities were M5 Junction 27 at the eastern end and Roundswell Roundabout at the western end of the NDL.
Junction 27 was completed and improved in May 2015. This improvement reduces the possibility of queuing onto the M5. This improves the safety of the junction as well as improving capacity with an additional lane on the southbound off-slip.
Roundswell Roundabout Phase 1 was completed in September 2014 and saw the introduction of additional lanes for the A39. This improvement has reduced congestion at peak times and in particular the queue lengths in both directions. As part of this scheme a second roundabout was built unlock approximately 20 acres of new employment land. Roundswell pedestrian bridge was also completed in 2017 to provide pedestrian and cycle acccess to future developments south of the A361.
Portmore Roundabout has recently undergone improvements to enlarge the existing roundabout to almost twice the original size. The improvement will increase capacity through the junction for all directions and will make future improvements to the A361 easier to construct. The roundabout has also had a 4th arm added to unlock development land to the south albeit the arm remains underground until it is required.
The northern Devon area has experienced significant population growth in recent years. Between 2000 and 2014 the population of Torridge was estimated to have grown by 13.1% as opposed to the growth across the UK as a whole of 9.7%.
Looking to the future the local authorities and their partners are committed to developing specific locations on the NDL. The higher quality road connecting this development to the rest of the country is essential to the establishment of this as the road in its current state would not cope with the increased demand in the future.
North Devon and Torridge local plan includes the proposal of 17,000 new dwellings across the two districts as well as 85Ha of employment land, which is likely to equate to a population increase of at least 37,800. This is mainly focused in the major towns as shown in Table 1 below. A plan showing the major developments can be found below.
Proposed Development in North Devon and Torridge (from North Devon and Torridge draft Local Plan, March 2015)
Planned housing (dwellings) 2011 – 2031 Planned employment land (hectares) 2011 – 2031 Barnstaple* 4,139 21.6 Bideford 4,127 25.4 Braunton / Wrafton 390 10 Fremington / Yelland* 426 0 Great Torrington 632 4 Holsworthy 670 7.1 Ilfracombe 1,429 5 Northam 1,916 0 South Molton 1,240 10.8 Local centres** 1,123 0.9 Villages 1,034 0.3 Rural settlements 120 0 Area total 17,246 85.1
*Barnstaple figures include an element of housing commitments from the adjacent parishes: Bickington, Roundswell and parts of Fremington, Pilton West and Tawstock.
**Excluding Fremington and Yelland.
Future development in Northern Devon
Click on the maps to enlarge
The Selected Scheme
The Scheme Plan details the scheme included in the Full Business Case. The scheme incorporates road widening to improve overtaking opportunities and journey time reliability, junction improvements to improve road safety and capacity, and new pedestrian/cycle facilities to boost active travel.
A number of improvements are taking place along the North Devon Link Road A361 between Barnstaple and South Molton.
The aim is to improve the route to make it safer, minimise congestion and provide better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists to promote more sustainable travel.
One of the major elements of the scheme is the widening of multiple sections (listed below) to allow for alternating overtaking lanes.
Sections to be widened:
- Portmore Roundabout to Landkey Junction
- Harford Bridge to Swimbridge Cutting
- Swimbridge Cutting to Filleigh Cutting
An example of the proposed lane configuration can be seen below. This will provide lengths of overtaking opportunity.
The improvements will also include the construction of 3 new bridges, including 2 footbridges located at Portmore and Landkey as well as a road bridge at the current West Buckland junction.
The bridge at Portmore will allow a safe road crossing on the existing footpath.
The bridge at West Buckland will create a grade separated junction and remove the need for vehicles to cross the A361 or make right turns across oncoming traffic, making this a much safer junction. The bridge design will be appropriate for its setting in the existing landscape and historic area of Castle Hill Estate.
The existing junctions at Landkey and Borner’s Bridge in South Molton are to be converted into roundabouts. This will allow a reduction in waiting times and queuing at these junctions. The Landkey Roundabout will also provide opportunity of access to the proposed Westacott housing development.
The project is a significant development for North Devon and will enhance the area’s infrastructure, making it not only safer but more easily accessible to the rest of Devon and beyond.