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DCO granted for A303 dualling scheme

Words: Laura Edgar
Road construction / iStock-147949635

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has granted a development consent order (DCO) for a scheme that would see the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester dualled against the advice of a planning inspector.

The scheme is considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). The examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate, had recommended that the secretary of state should not grant development consent.

Highways England sought permission for a continuous dual carriageway on the A303 linking the Podimore Roundabout and the Sparkford Bypass. The scheme will involve the removal of at-grade junctions and direct accesses.

The proposed route follows the existing corridor of the A303 closely. It is aligned to the side of the existing carriageway so that current local access can be reused. At its maximum offset, the route is around 100 metres either north or south of the existing A303.

The scheme lies within the boundaries of Somerset County Council and South Somerset District Council.

In July 2020, the transport secretary published a letter saying he was minded to refuse the scheme – as recommended by the examining authority – unless Highways England could provide further evidence that demonstrated how four issues identified by the examining authority could be addressed. These  included "bird strike" and the adverse effects on non-motorised users and the local road network.

Measures were submitted to address the concerns. The transport secretary then considered bird strike to be a neutral consideration in the planning balance and that overall the issue of NMUs is compliant with the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS) but weighs moderately against the development in the planning balance.

The transport secretary agreed with the examining authority that the development would have no direct effects on the conservation areas of West Camel and Queen Camel and any effects would be indirect.

The examining authority agreed with Highways England that there would be an overall net worsening in local air quality, but that it is “unlikely to have a significant harmful effect  on air quality nor would it result in the breach of any international or statutory obligations”. Shapps agreed, saying he has no reason to disagree with the examining authority that it is probable that the scheme would improve journey reliability.  

His decision letter states: “In conclusion, when considering the impact of the development as a whole and the mitigation measures to be put in place, the secretary of state is satisfied that on balance the benefits of the development outweigh any adverse impacts and so the presumption in favour of granting consent to this application as a transport Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project is justified.”

The decision letter and all other documents relating to the scheme can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

Image credit | iStock