A39 Atlantic Highway Camelford Improvement

This Project Is Currently On Hold Pending A Funding Decision

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

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. 

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.


All registered landowners directly affected by the latest scheme were sent a letter on 4 December 2020.

This letter included:

  • a plan showing the latest scheme design and
  • the adjoining corridor of land to be safeguarded against development running through their land

This represents the latest design that forms the basis of the Outline Business Case (OBC).  This is to be submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT). It has been refined and improved based on:

  • feedback from public consultation
  • environmental and cost considerations in line with the latest guidance.

Ongoing environmental and site surveys may influence the alignment and associated design requirements. For example the need for drainage ponds and areas of environmental mitigation. This is why we have identified an adjoining corridor of land which we seek to safeguard. We are aiming to finalise the scheme design for a planning submission in autumn next year.

The new alignment and 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.

We will be engaging with landowners in 2021 to move forward on negotiating the acquisition of land.

The intended timeline for the scheme at the moment is as follows:

  • Dec 2020 - Cabinet decision to submit OBC and approval to begin  land acquisition process
  • Early 2021 - Negotiations to begin on land acquisition
  • Summer 2021 - Design fixed - exact land requirements known
  • Autumn 2021 - Planning submission
  • End 2021/ 22 onwards - Acquisitions begin subject to Government support for OBC and Planning secured*

*There may be the opportunity to acquire land earlier in the process if it is in mutual benefit of the landowner and the delivery of the project.

The Council’s approach is to secure the land by agreement but will have the ability to revert to use of Compulsory Purchase powers.

Nearby residents

Nearby residents who feel they will be negatively affected by the scheme are encouraged to get in touch with the design team.  Please contact the team using the contact details on this page. They can then discuss their specific concerns relating to their property.

Certain residents may qualify for compensation.  This is where issues cannot be addressed through design or mitigation measures. These claims are generally settled one year after the scheme has opened.

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 in 2024 / 25 onwards. We will consult with the community and business representatives on them.

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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