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A39 Atlantic Highway Camelford Improvement

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The A39 runs through the centre of Camelford. The narrow street delays traffic leading to queues and congestion. This results in poor air quality and creates an unpleasant place for people walking along the main road. The whole of the town is in an Air Quality Management Area.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has made the A39 a part of the Major Road Network. This means we can apply for funding from the current 5-year national roads programme (2020 – 2025). This presents an opportunity to progress a long-held aim for a bypass of Camelford. This scheme will:

  • unblock this bottleneck on the A39
  • address the impacts of traffic congestion
  • address the air pollution in the town
  • help to support housing growth
  • improve the local economy
  • support tourist related opportunities in the wider area

A group of south west Local Authorities known as Peninsula Transport have supported this scheme as a priority for the region. With their support a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for the  scheme was submitted to DfT in summer 2019. Since then scheme development work funded by DfT has resulted in an improved design. This design took onboard feedback from the 2020 public consultation. It includes latest environmental and technical design guidance. This design forms the basis for the Outline Business Case (OBC) submission to DfT.

Latest news

February 2024

Cabinet approved the submission of  the Outline Business Case (OBC) for the ‘A39 Atlantic Highway: Camelford bypass’ to the Department for Transport. With a revised cost estimate of £146.625m.

View the full report and appendices under item 14

Key points to note

  • Scheme has been on hold since summer 2022.
  • The OBC has been submitted following inclusion of A39 Camelford scheme as part of ‘Network North’ of road schemes that could benefit from increased Government transport spending released from HS2 cancellation
  • The OBC addendum is submitted on the basis of significantly increased cost estimate of £146.6m (original OBC £48.4m) due to:
    • Unforeseen levels of construction inflation applied over extended programme which allows time for land acquisition.
    • Increased Risk pot to reflect difficulties with constructing a major viaduct over the environmentally sensitive Camel valley.
    • Whilst schemes costs have increased significantly yet the benefits are broadly the same. This has resulted in the scheme is categorised at ‘Poor’ value for money in HM Treasury criteria.
  • Alongside the revised cost estimate the ‘Strategic Case’ has been strengthened to reflect the work on the Camelford vision and economic masterplan. . There is also a commentary on comparison with the experience of Wadebridge bypassed in early 1990’s and the contrasting fortunes of the 2 towns since.
  • Submitting the OBC addendum will let the central government decide if the project gets ‘Programme Entry’ into the national roads programme. If approved, the Council team will re-start the project’. A Design and Build contractor will be brought in to finish the design for a planning application in 2026. After that, the next steps involve getting land and all needed legal powers. Then, a Full Business Case (FBC) for the land and construction costs in 2028 will go to DfT.
    • The council would be liable for 33% of scheme development fees up to FBC but DfT would fund land and construction itself.
    • Scheme construction would commence in late 28, with scheme open in 2030.
    • Changes to the town centre will be developed for implementation after the main scheme opening

October 2022

Stakeholder liaisons and design activity are on hold. This is while the Government is making a decision about funding approval. This follows the submission of the Outline Business Case. The updated construction cost estimate put the project at risk of funding not being approved. Survey and monitoring equipment remain on site.

Further Information

For further information download the OBC Addendum. Note that some sensitive financial information has been redacted. Please contact the project team at the details below if you have specific requests for more detailed reports.

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.

Investment in the area, restricting job creation and growth, is being held back by:

  • the congestion through Camelford
  • the lack of resilience of the A39
  • uncertainty over journey times for commercial traffic,

The new route around Camelford will help:

  • reduce congestion in the town
  • improve air quality
  • support regional and local planned development in and around Cornwall.
  • reduce journey times
  • address highway safety concerns within Camelford

Existing issues

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

  • The A39 was a Trunk Road maintained by the Highways Agency until 2002. It was then de-trunked 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 increase in vehicle numbers during the summer months. This is 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, narrow roads and tall (3-4 storey) buildings, have a significant impact on air quality.
  • HGV traffic makes up only 7% of the total traffic flow but contributes 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 route around Camelford

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 was submitted to North Cornwall District Council.  In 2005 the application was “Approved with Conditions”, with the route protected from future development.

In 2006, 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. The Draft Neighbourhood Plan for Camelford has the goal of protecting the route from other development. There remains a local expectation that a route around Camelford will eventually be constructed to tackle the issues. 

Progressing the Scheme

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
  • the case for the 2004 Camelford bypass proposals

This assessment concluded that the construction of a bypass 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. The basis for the Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) is formed by:

  • this evidence
  • an assessment of the likely impact of a new route around Camelford

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 Peninsula Transport as a priority scheme for this funding.

The likely scheme cost would be £42.4m. At their meeting of 24 July 2019, Cornwall Council Cabinet supported:

  • the submission of the SOBC and
  • 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
  • providing a catalyst for improving Camelford town centre and the local economy in the area
  • supporting the development plans as set out in the draft Camelford Neighbourhood Plan.

Landowners

All registered landowners and nearby residents who have previously contacted the Council were sent a letter on 8 Feb 2024.

This letter provided an update on the scheme in light of recent Government announcements and the recent decision by the Council to submit an addendum to the original OBC with a revised cost estimate – that letter can be downloaded here

Despite the scheme being essentially on hold pending a decision by central Government, the scheme alignment and adjacent buffer corridor will show up on any land searches associated with house and other sales. Any development proposals that come forward within that area, will automatically be referred to the project team. The intention is to ensure that no proposals are permitted that would compromise the delivery of the road scheme.

A report on the scheme was taken to the Cornwall Council Cabinet on 16 December 2020.

The report included:

  • the Outline Business Case (OBC) for the Department for Transport (DfT)
  • the latest design alignment
  • plans showing an adjacent corridor of land to be safeguarded against development.

Also under development are a package of complementary measures to enhance the town centre. With around 80% of traffic predicted to reroute to the bypass there are opportunities to make the high street a low speed environment with:

  • improved footways
  • tree planting
  • lighting
  • seating areas

Other ideas include recreating the market square and promoting the town as a ‘Gateway to the Moor’ for visitors to linger and enjoy.

These measures would be implemented once the scheme is in place. We will consult with the community and business representatives on them.

The latest report to 7 Feb 2024 Cabinet can be viewed here under item 14

 

Following the December 2020 Cabinet meeting there will be a period of technical review with the DfT team. This should conclude by the end of March 2021.

However, given the:

  • current pandemic situation
  • timing of the DfT decision

it is likely to be delayed until after the local elections in May 2021. Maybe as late as the autumn.

The next key tasks and milestones are:

  • Approve submission of Outline Business Case (OBC) - Dec 2020
  • Programme Entry - approval in principle by Government to fund construction - 2021
  • Begin land negotiations and CPO preparation - Start 2021
  • Planning application submission - Autumn 2021
  • Detailed Design and appointment of main contractor – 2022
  • Full Business Case submitted to DfT* - end 2022
  • Construction – (Advance/ clearing - autumn 2022) Main works - Spring 2023
  • Road open to public -2024
  • Town centre complementary measures – 2024/25 onwards

*Assuming planning, purchase of land and other statutory process complete, and a tender price within budget

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