It's not just Torbay that will benefit from the South Devon Link Road
RIGHT from the outset, I want to dispel the idea that the South Devon Link Road has nothing to do with the people, the communities and the businesses of Teignbridge. There has been a view that only the people and businesses of Torbay will reap any benefits that will come from the new road, if it is approved by the Government.
Make no mistake, this road will have a big impact on Teignbridge: get it right and our local economy and our local communities will benefit hugely in jobs, wealth and a much better quality of life — get it wrong and we will have missed a great opportunity to influence this scheme for the better.
That is why, when I took over as leader of Teignbridge District Council earlier this summer, I made it a priority to get involved quickly and find out what was happening with the road scheme and how we can make sure it delivers real benefits for the people of Teignbridge and particularly the people of Kingskerswell, where air quality is certain to improve.
Anything to ease the dreadful traffic snarl-up's at the Penn Inn roundabout has to be a step forward for tourists and locals alike. The benefits for access to Buckland and Milber, together with the major employer Centrax, and the greater and quicker flow of traffic into Newton Abbot and on to the Brunel Industrial Estate, has to be good for business in Teignbridge.
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I have had early meetings with the leaders of Devon County Council and South Hams Council and with the newly elected Mayor of Torbay. I have been encouraged by the willingness of all to work together and work across local authority boundaries to ensure that big schemes such as the South Devon Link Road are sensibly connected with housing, economic development and transport policies, and most of all that, by working together, we deliver solutions that work for real people and real communities and are not constrained by artificial administrative boundaries.
I welcomed last week's statement in the Herald Express by Will Mumford, Devon's cabinet member for economy, enterprise and employment, about this need for us all to work together.
In particular, I warmly welcomed his comments about the need to work with the local community to ensure that the South Devon Link Road is the best scheme we can all make it.
We need to work together and we must because it is in the clear interests of the people of Teignbridge and future generations that we do so. Independent research indicates that, if built, this new road will help create almost 4,500 new jobs in Teignbridge and South Hams and productivity will increase by almost £100million a year across our two districts.
For those of us concerned about taxes, the good news is that by creating those new jobs, we could cut the amount the public purse is spending on housing and council tax benefits by £5million a year.
But it is not just about jobs and what's good for the local economy, there are also the other benefits that the wider community will enjoy. A stronger economy with better jobs and reduced unemployment will help reduce crime, improve health and the overall quality of life.
I also want to say something about what the new road will mean in terms of air quality. This is no small matter. The village of Kingskerswell is presently an 'air quality management area' monitored by the environmental and safety services of Teignbridge District Council. It is the professional view of our officers that the South Devon Link Road should result in significant air quality improvements along the existing road and the displaced traffic will not result in unacceptable exposure to poor air quality elsewhere.
The conclusion that our professional officers have reached is that, overall, the air quality benefits of the South Devon Link Road far outweigh the public health implications of doing nothing.
The choke point of the A380 at Kingskerswell is funnelling 35,000 vehicles through the village every day, as bad as you would find in Greater London.
We are clearly not going to make a big improvement in air quality in the village until we have a created a faster, efficient route for all that traffic.
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that we need better public transport, faster bus services, more trains, new stations and lots of safe cycle routes that will be great for local people and a great attraction for visitors.
But these alone will not solve the problems that Kingskerswell has to cope with now. In fact, without a new road we certainly have no chance of improving the bus services or providing safer cycle routes.
The answer lies in building a truly integrated transport network that combines quick, efficient road links with first-class public transport that is sensitive to needs of local people and local communities.
By working together I believe we can achieve that and create a great new opportunity for local people and local businesses.