Westcountry needs new roads 'to catch up with the rest of UK'
Campaigners for improved road links in the Westcountry have dismissed warnings that a major rethink is required on a raft of road building schemes.
The Campaign for Better Transport says kick-starting schemes costing around £30 billion is not the answer to the nation's economic woes and may have great environmental drawbacks.
A report by the group says plans for 26 road schemes with a combined distance of 175km and a price tag of £3.6 billion in the South West should also be reconsidered.
These include plans to widen the A30 in Cornwall, which ministers are considering, and moves to expand the A303, promoted by Somerset County Council. Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall business council and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said plans to add carriageways to major routes westwards were "long overdue".
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"We start with a great deficit in the debate – we are the Cinderella of infrastructure in the UK and have a lot of catching up to do," he added.
"The schemes have all been through a detailed scrutiny process and the A303 dualling has been done to death – we are not dusting down old schemes but pushing a strong business case."
Former Conservative transport minister Stephen Norris and a campaigner previously jailed for opposing road building have joined to launch Going Backwards: the new roads programme. It says plans are afoot to build enough road to stretch from the Isles of Scilly to the Shetland Isles and predicts strong local opposition.
Mr Norris said: "Now is the time for brave and creative decision-making, not a return to road building policies that were tried and failed in the 1990s."
CBT spokeswoman Jenny Raggett added: "One of the problems with major roads is that local authorities just can't accept no."
Torbay MP Adrian Sanders, whose constituency is keenly awaiting the completion of the South Devon Link Road, said the London-based group should "not dictate" to the region.
"I think it is right to look at road schemes where there may be alternatives, but that does not apply here where we don't have the kind of public transport that these people take for granted," he added.
Dan Rogerson, Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall, said: "New roads are fine when and where they have the support from the local community.
"The plans to upgrade the A30 to dual carriageway between Temple and Higher Carblake are a good proposal which needs funding to reduce delays and accidents and tackle congestion caused by this bottleneck."