The A303 Corridor is a site of a potential major development, with a new £1.7bn road upgrade proposed near Stonehenge. A decision is set to be made in Spring 2020.

Derek Parody, Project Director at Highways England, specified details of the development at Built Environment Networking’s West of England Development Conference,  saying that the whole section of road, which has been long beleaguered with congestion, will be upgraded to a dual-carriageway “featuring a 2 mile 3.3km twin bore tunnel about 200m from the monument itself.” [emaillocker id=”71749″]

To tackle the climate challenges faced in expanding roads, Parody outlined Highways England’s plans for sustainable transport: “Cycling in particular is top of the agenda and whenever we create a road, we’re also trying to create a cycle network. In this case that would be on what will become the disused A303.” 

Homes England have been working with partners to deliver houses across the West of England and Head of Acquisitions Kelly Hillman told delegates about their recent successes: “Just last month we announced over £20m of funding that will unlock over 1000 homes and that includes sites in Bristol.”

Homes England are not solely concerned with the delivery of homes, but also making sure they are supported by appropriate infrastructure, with some of that £20m pot going towards “a range of products for infrastructure delivery.”

Wapping Wharf, a new harbourside community in Bristol, is being supported by £23.4m of Homes England funding and will deliver 256 homes, 81 of these homes are designated as affordable housing.

Hillman was keen to also point out Homes England’s success on smaller projects, pointing to the fact that Homes England were the “11th largest mortgage provider in the UK, in the last quarter with 2,000 SMEs registering their interest in Help to Buy.”

Embracing innovation is a key part of Homes England’s method of maximising housing delivery and quality. Hillman described their approach: “We’ve got to speed up housing delivery, MMC, diversification, bringing in new entrants, quality and placemaking.”

The organisation has also learnt from past mass housing strategies and has implemented strong design standards to prevent production of generic stock. Hillman remarked: “I heard someone say that Homes England is bringing back design.”

The Hinkley Point C project is supporting communities in the region, said Head of Stakeholder Engagement at EDF Energy, David Eccles CBE.

He discussed their success in engaging with the surrounding community: “If you ask people if nuclear power should be part of the national mix around 50% say yes, but if you ask within 15 miles of Hinkley that goes up to 65%.”

The project has been accompanied by what Eccles dubbed a “huge investment in projects and infrastructure in the local community” which has completely transformed the area around the plant.

Investing in individuals and skills has also been a core part of what EDF Energy has achieved in the area around Hinkley with “450 apprenticeships created” so far.

The company is also advancing an inclusion agenda for women in construction, and Eccles cited early success with women comprising 40% of their newest cohort of crane operators and cited “massive investment” in that area.

Network Rail are making significant improvements to the rail network across the West of England, which Tim Laveryne, Director of Route Asset Management dubbed the “biggest infrastructure upgrade since Brunel was stalking these halls [Brunel’s Old Station] some 170 years ago.”

The extensive upgrades are in part to cope with the surge in demand in the region, and Laveryne commented on the exponential growth: “Bristol Temple Meads has seen quadrupling of its passenger usage each year, now up to some 12 million passengers.”

Upgrades to the rails have been integral to the modernisation which has included rail resilience upgrades on the network between Exeter and Newton Abbot, intended to last for 100 years. Network Rail has also electrified 150 miles worth of railway, as well as building a new control centre in Didcott.  

The growing expansion in connectivity across the region can only be a positive thing for building the much sought regional cooperation in the West of England.