COUNCIL bosses said they would be “bitterly disappointed” to see the collapse of a “vital” scheme to upgrade the A120.

A long-awaited project to upgrade the A120 by creating a dual carriageway link road between Braintree and the A12 has been shelved, the Gazette can exclusively reveal.

Previously billed as “one of the most important infrastructure projects in Essex and the East of England”, a plan to revamp the major road has been ditched despite millions of pounds of investment.

Internal correspondence within the Department for Transport (DfE), seen by the Gazette, revealed work on the project will stop due to Treasury funding pressures.

Read more on this story: A120 Braintree link road to A12 shelved by Government

In a joint statement, Kevin Bentley, leader of Essex County Council, and Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said: “We are investigating reports the Government is considering the possibility of ceasing work.

“The A120 is a vital road for the future economic growth of Braintree and wider Essex, a road that links Stansted Airport and Freeport East.

“Residents, road users, businesses and the wider economy would reap the benefits of a fit-for-purpose A120.

“We are requesting further details from National Highways and the Government on the current position of the project.

"We will be bitterly disappointed if this proves true.”

Mr Bentley and Witham MP Priti Patel headed the initial campaign to secure funding for the road, a bid which was supported by a 500-signature strong petition backing investment in an upgraded A120.

Gazette: MP Priti PatelMP Priti Patel

Ms Patel told the Gazette: "I have campaigned with Essex County Council and communities across this part of Essex to get the A120 dualled since being elected.

"The Government and Essex County Council jointly funded a feasibility study that led to a favoured route option coming forward that was widely supported and cost-effective.

"I have been lobbying for the Government to take this option forward as a dualled A120 will be a safer road and will support economic growth across the region.

"I am in regular contact with the Treasury and the Department for Transport over infrastructure investment and will continue to press them to commit to the dualling scheme and include it in the next Roads Investment Strategy."

Gazette: The A120 scheme has been in the pipeline since 2017The A120 scheme has been in the pipeline since 2017

Andrew Summers, strategic director of Transport East, the sub-national transport body for the East said: “The A120 is a regionally significant route linking growing communities, international gateways and economic centres.

“It is identified as a priority corridor in our transport strategy.

“Our members have invested significant time and money into developing plans to speed the delivery of improvements.

“We are working closely with all partners to progress the scheme for the benefits of residents and businesses.”

A website dedicated to the proposed A120 upgrade claims the scheme would have “unlocked” up to 20,000 new jobs and 32,500 new houses.

The Essex County Council-run A120essex.co.uk site details the projected benefits of County Hall’s preferred route for the now shelved link road.

The site says studies revealed the council’s preferred route would have brought “£4.51 million in benefits to road users and businesses” for every £1 million spent on the upgrade.

It also says traffic would be reduced by 59 per cent through Silver End, 44 per cent through Cressing and 43 per cent through Bradwell.

County Hall leader Kevin Bentley previously said the scheme would add £2.2 billion in “gross value” to the local economy through new jobs, businesses and housing.

The council petitioned, campaigned, held meetings and received 2,795 responses to a 2017 public consultation.

The site adds: “Four out of five respondents agreed that the A120 needs to be completely upgraded to a dual carriageway.”

 

However, some campaigners welcomed the move to shelve the plan.

A120 campaigner Rosie Pearson said she used to be in favour of the council’s proposed route, but “now realises a new road would just bring more traffic”.

“If it went ahead it would trash an enormous swathe of countryside between Braintree and the A12, it would be very damaging environmentally,” she said.

“It would also unleash huge housing developments and a new town – we would inevitably see a new West Tey, a new garden town.

“I think it is a relief for the countryside. The road would soon fill up with traffic with the amount of housing it would unlock, it would be congested almost immediately.

“What is needed is to stop building thousands of homes without providing proper public transport.

“Provide a proper alternative to the use of cars. Provide sustainable transport and buses, change the way we look at these things.

“Building that road would not solve any problems in the long term.”