Background information

Background

The existing A39 route is the primary road through Camelford’s town centre. Its narrow carriageway impedes the flow of traffic. This leads to congestion, delays and associated environmental and community issues. Environmental issues include noise and air quality. Community issues may involve pedestrian obstruction. In addition, the congestion through Camelford, along with the lack of resilience of the A39 and uncertainty over journey time for commercial traffic, is holding back investment in the area, restricting job creation and wage growth.  The provision of a new route around Camelford will provide significant benefits in terms of congestion and air quality within the town, as well as supporting regional and local planned development in and around Cornwall. Reduced journey times are anticipated and the scheme will address highway safety concerns within Camelford.

The existing issues with the current A39 through Camelford are:-

  • The A39 was a Trunk Road maintained by the Highways Agency until it was de-trunked in 2002 and handed to Cornwall Council to maintain. 
  • The A39 is now designated the ‘Atlantic Highway’ between Fraddon and the county boundary.  It forms part both of Cornwall's Strategic Freight Network and the country’s Major Road Network.
  • The road links Wadebridge to Bude and provides the most direct route through the north of Cornwall.
  • The route has to cope with a significant uplift in vehicle numbers during the summer months as a result of tourism in the local area.
  • The town centre layout is restricted by a priority shuttle layout and traffic signals. This is causing queueing traffic and congestion.
  • Idling vehicles, combined with narrow roads fronted by tall (3-4 storey) buildings, impact significantly on air quality.
  • HGV traffic makes up only 7% of the total traffic flow but contributes nearly 40% of the NOx pollution. 

As a result of the above issues, Camelford was formally declared an Air Quality Management Area in January 2017.

The construction of a route around Camelford has long been an aspiration of both Camelford Town Council and Cornwall Council.

A scheme was originally developed in the early 2000s. In 2004, a Planning Application to North Cornwall District Council was submitted and in 2005 the application was “Approved with Conditions”, with the route protected from future development.

In 2006, however, Central Government funding was removed when the scheme failed to make the Regional Funding Allocation (RFA) for the period to 2016. The scheme was subsequently put on hold, pending future funding.

The original Planning Permission for the scheme lapsed in 2010, although the Draft Neighbourhood Plan for Camelford has the objective of protecting the route from other development. Thus, there remains an expectation locally that a route around Camelford will eventually be constructed to tackle issues around traffic congestion with the resulting community severance and air pollution on the busy A39 which is currently funnelled on a single lane through the town centre.

In early 2017 Cornwall Council met Councillors and representatives of Camelford Town Council. This led to a high-level route assessment which reviewed how Camelford wishes to develop, what transportation interventions may be appropriate, and to review the case for the 2004 Camelford bypass proposals.

This assessment concluded that the construction of the bypass route for Camelford along the alignment set out in the 2005 scheme would be the preferred long-term solution.

Cornwall Council decided to carry out further studies of the A39 at Camelford. Records of traffic flows and air quality impacts were undertaken. This evidence and an assessment of the likely impact of a new route around Camelford form the basis for the Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) that would be submitted to the Department of Transport (DfT) should the opportunity arise.

In the spring of 2019 the DfT announced the availability of funding for schemes on the Major Road Network (MRN) and requested bids for funding.  The Camelford Improvement was nominated by the Peninsula Sub-National Transport Body (STB) as a priority scheme for funding consideration through the Government’s Major Road Network (MRN) programmes investment plan.

Consequently, an SOBC was prepared showing the likely scheme cost to be £42.4m and, at their meeting of 24 July 2019, Cornwall Council Cabinet supported the submission of the SOBC with an in principle commitment to meet the local contribution of circa £6.5 million.

The SOBC was submitted to the DfT in July 2019 and focused on the need to ‘unblock’ the A39 as the main route from north Cornwall to north Devon, provide a catalyst for improving Camelford town centre and the local economy in the area, and support the development plans as set out in the draft Camelford Neighbourhood Plan.

The design guidance for major roads has moved on from that extant in the early 2000s, traffic flows have changed, ecology is now a more important consideration, and there has been some development in the vicinity of the 2005 alignment. All of these are likely to affect the original design of the then proposed route around Camelford. 

The 2005 design was reviewed along with alternative solutions as part of an optioneering process. The route to the west of Camelford as proposed in 2005 remains the best option although the alignment will not be exactly the same.The Design Team have developed a similar route alignment that meets modern standards and reduces community severance by fully considering the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders along and across the bypass. The proposed route alignment and junction strategy/location have been set and will be shown at the public consultation in early 2020.

We now need your feedback on our proposals so that we can further improve the design.

It is our intention to talk with the landowners from whom we will be taking land before the designs are made public. The results of the consultation will feed into the design of the preferred route and will influence any future planning application.

Over the next few months you are also likely to see members of the team out and about in the area carrying out surveys including the following: ecology; topography; and air quality.

There remain a number of hurdles to overcome before the scheme will progress into construction. As of January 2020, Cornwall Council awaits notification on the success of the SOBC in winning further funding. If awarded we will take the scheme forward to the next stage where we will prepare an Outline Business Case (OBC) for the DfT.

This will address the same issues as the SOBC but with a more detailed design, costings and economic model. This will take into account the comments we receive during the public consultation in January 2020. If the OBC is successful,the DfT will in-principle agree to fund the construction of the A39 Camelford Improvement. To finalise the funding the Council will need to prepare a Final Business Case (FBC) showing that the scheme still provides value for money.

The FBC will require, with the completion of all surveys, an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Comprehensive Impact Assessment. The scheme will need to go through planning and a tendering exercise to procure a contractor and a tender price. The FBC can then be submitted and if successful the scheme will progress to construction.

The timeline for the various stages is as follows:

  • July 2019 - Submission of Strategic Outline Business Case – July 2019.
  • Early in 2020 -  Announcement by the DfT funding the Outline Business Case.
  • January/February 2020 - Public consultation on the preferred route.
  • Spring 2020 - Submission of OBC.
  • Summer 2020 - Announcement by the DfT funding the Final Business Case.
  • Autumn 2020 - Planning and Tendering process starts.
  • September 2021 - Submission of FBC.
  • Winter 2021/Spring 2022 - Construction to start.
  • Summer 2023 - The route around Camelford opens to public.
  • Autumn/Winter 2023 - Improvements to Camelford Town Centre.