Levelling Up bid is important step for Devon

Proposal for the new Dinan Way link.

Proposal for the new Dinan Way link. - Credit: Archant

John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, writes for the Journal

Council leader Councillor John Hart says this is Devon's 'best budget in a decade'. Picture: contrib

Council leader Councillor John Hart says this is Devon's 'best budget in a decade'. Picture: contributed - Credit: Archant

Many of you will have seen last week’s front page story in the Exmouth Journal detailing our plans to try to complete the long-awaited final section of Dinan Way.

The county council’s cabinet met last Wednesday (May 11) as the Journal came out so I am delighted to report that our proposals were endorsed by my colleagues and we will submit the Exmouth scheme to Government in July as one part of a £92 million package of five measures which we hope will qualify for £75 million of funding from the Levelling-Up Fund.

We are asking for £18 million for the Dinan Way scheme and both the county council and our colleagues at East Devon District Council will contribute another £1 million each towards the £20 million cost.

You will be well aware that, currently, traffic from Dinan Way has to use unsuitable residential roads to access the A376.

Our bid includes improved pedestrian and cycle connections to the Exe Estuary multi-use trail and also 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.

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We are responsible for the transport side of this plan as the relevant authority and the district council is planning other improvements to enhance the town as a destination for both locals and visitors.

I believe this is a very important bid for the county which demonstrates that Devon is as much in need of levelling-up funding as towns and cities in the north and Midlands.

Those of us who know and love Devon are well aware that the chocolate box cottages and cream tea image of the county is but one aspect of life here.

A few weeks ago I was a guest at the launch of Exeter University's report on deprivation which calls on the Government to prioritise the South West in its levelling-up efforts.

The report highlighted statistics with which I am all too familiar - four of our eight district council areas 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 to enable them to get the better-paid jobs.

I've written here before about our partnership as a county council with the eight district councils in Team Devon.

This has been most successful in our combined efforts to support the most vulnerable people in our communities throughout the pandemic.

But we've also been working with the districts and our MPs on this latest levelling-up bid which 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 cars.

Also in the east of the county, in Cullompton, we're supporting 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 centre.

In west Devon we want to create a £17 million transport hub including a second railway station at Okehampton following the success of the new line to Exeter and our bid also includes an enhanced cycle route between Newton Abbot and Torbay and a new slip road off the A38 at Lee Mill.

These bids are for money from the second round of levelling-up support.

We didn't do too well in the first round of bidding but we have refined our schemes and we are now lobbying hard to get a better deal this time.