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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 19:11 GMT
Bottle-neck to be eased
Map of A30 A303
Business leaders have long sought this move
The government has given the go-ahead for converting the A303 into a dual carriageway from the M3 into the South West.

Improvements to the A30 west of Exeter are also included in 5.5bn of road schemes announced by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

Local authorities in the region will also get an extra 147m for road maintenance.

But business leaders say the plan does not go far enough and will turn the South West into an economic blackspot.

The combination of dual and single carriageway on the A303 from Honiton in Devon to the M3 causes horrific jams in the summer as people flock westwards for their holidays.

It is essential that proposals to tackle congestion and improve reliability are consistent with our wider environmental obligations

Alistair Darling

Mr Darling said the A303 would be dualled east of Ilminister in Somerset, easing congestion and making journeys "safer and more reliable".

Mr Darling also said he wanted to avoid turning the A303 and the A30 into a dual carriageway west of Ilminster because it would pass through the Blackdown Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

He is asking the Highways Agency to consider the feasibility of widening the A358 from Ilminster to the M5 as an alternative.

Mr Darling said: "It is essential that proposals to tackle congestion and improve reliability are consistent with our wider environmental obligations.

Blackdown Hills
The Blackdown Hills will be spared
"I had to consider whether or not I could accept the South West Regional Assembly's recommendation for a dual carriageway through the Blackdown Hills.

"I believe there must be a strong presumption against building new roads in such areas."

The proposal has pleased environmentalists who are concerned about the effect of road improvements on the Blackdown Hills.

But business leaders say the entire A303 and the A30 through the Blackdown Hills should have been dualled to Exeter.

It's a real curate's egg

Tim Jones
Devon and Cornwall Business Council

And they warn that the South West will become an economic blackspot.

Tim Jones of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said: "It's a real curate's egg.

"It's good news that we have got new money invested in the roads network, but it's not good enough because it's not attacking the vital link which takes us through the gap between Ilminster and Honiton.

"That's the bit we need to protect an awful lot of jobs in the far South West."

Ilminster-based haulier Mike Henly said failing to dual the route through the Blackdown Hills means that many businesses such as his will suffer.

He said: "It will be more difficult for people to get into the area by road.

"Therefore industry and tourism will be hit."


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See also:

10 Dec 02 | England
10 Dec 02 | England
10 Dec 02 | England
14 Oct 02 | England
11 Sep 02 | Politics
29 Aug 02 | UK
15 Jul 02 | Politics
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