CIVIC chiefs have backed calls from a Department for Transport plan which identifies key routes for enhancing north-south connectivity across Dorset.

The Major Roads Network (MRN) plan proposes that 5,000 miles of A roads are brought into scope for new funding from the National Roads Fund for upgrades and improvements.

Part of the plan, which is currently being reviewed by the Department for Transport, will see the A37 between Dorchester and Yeovil receive an upgrade which could include new bypasses, missing links between existing routes, road widening, major junction improvements and the use of technological and safety enhancements along stretches of the network.

Once a decision is made on the network later this year, the road upgrades will be developed by councils for these particular routes and, where possible, sub-national transport bodies – a regional body that influences funding decisions.

Alongside this, the A350 could also be given an upgrade between Poole and the Wiltshire border to enhance connectivity.

Meanwhile, Highways England has also submitted a planning application to North Dorset District Council to upgrade the A303 to dual carriageway between Sparkford and Ilchester.

Cllr Daryl Turner, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for natural and built environment, said: “The South Coast’s economy has been artificially suppressed due to wholly inadequate transport links to our ports and markets, particularly from the north.

“Improved links offer a huge potential for growth throughout the region."

Cllr David Taylor, Mayor of Dorchester said: “Anything that can be done to reduce the volume of traffic going through the town centre, particularly along our historic High West Street, must be positive.”

Jim Stewart, chairman of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The absence of an effective north-south link has hindered growth in Dorset’s economy for decades.

“Dorset’s economy requires urgent investment in a viable north-south road solution if it is to achieve its full potential.”

Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor, added: “This is an important piece of work. To address transport and congestion issues in the region we need to work closely with our neighbouring authorities as roads don’t end at council boundaries.”

At the same time, Dorset County Council are currently working with their counterparts across the region to set out the case for better transport links between the Dorset and the M4 corridor and could also see funding received to upgrade the A350.

Trevor Green, transport manager at Dorset based Wyvern Cargo, said that north-south links were “woefully inadequate”.

He added: “We support both Dorset County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership in their fight towards improving this route – after all, Dorset’s industrial expansion is severely limited by the poor transport links."