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Multi-million pound plans for ambitious improvements

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An ambitious programme of improvements to boost Devon’s economic recovery and improve local transport is set to be approved by county council leaders.

They’re working with district councils across Devon to bid for almost £75 million of Government funding.

The county council’s Cabinet is being recommended to approve a package of five schemes to be put forward for cash from the Government’s Levelling-Up Fund and to make a contribution of over £6 million towards the work.

The schemes span the county and would benefit Okehampton, Exmouth, Cullompton, Lee Mill and Newton Abbot.

In Okehampton there would be a second railway station on county council land to the east of the town to make the best use of the new passenger service to Exeter. The county’s working with West Devon Borough Council to create a £17 million transport hub with facilities for bus connections, cycle links and electric vehicle charging. The aim is to provide an interchange for the west and north of the county up to Holsworthy and Hatherleigh and parts of North Cornwall, which are all poorly connected to the national rail network.

In Exmouth the bid – in 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. The bid includes improved pedestrian and cycle connections to the Exe Estuary multi-use trail and has the potential to improve bus journey times to Exeter. The wider bid includes other walking and cycling improvements focusing on the regeneration of the town centre and the total cost would be £20 million.

The bid in Cullompton is to support the £25 million town centre relief road, for which Mid Devon District Council has already secured £10 million from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. The road will remove traffic from the High Street and cut congestion, improving air quality and enabling further regeneration of the town’s historic core.

In Lee Mill the county has worked with South Hams District Council to provide a new slip road scheme off the A38, 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 also include a bus interchange and improvements to the cycle connections between Ivybridge and the proposed new Freeport at Langage.

The £15.4 million scheme in Newton Abbot is to enhance the cycle route to Torbay via Kingskerswell and enable more people to commute by bike. The bid, with Teignbridge District Council, is also designed to encourage more leisure trips. There will be improvements at the Penn Inn underpass and enhanced connectivity to and from the new residential development at Wolborough.

Devon’s Cabinet Member for climate change, environment and transport, Andrea Davis, said:

“Throughout the pandemic, the county council has been working in close partnership with the district councils to support the most vulnerable people in our community.

“This new bid demonstrates the Team Devon 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.

“Just last month the University of Exeter published a report calling for the Government to prioritise the South West in its levelling-up efforts. Devon is a beautiful place but it’s not just seaside holidays and cream teas. Four of our eight districts are among the UK’s worst 25 low wage ‘hotspots’ and too many of our youngsters don’t go on to university or vocational training which will enable them to get the better-paid jobs.

“We’ve got an ambitious Team Devon proposal for devolution which would enable us to tackle some of these structural problems in the longer term but these five bids would be a real start in helping us to boost our economic growth and fight climate change by providing real alternatives to our reliance on our cars.”