TRANSPORT planners have made an £11m bid to turn the Milton Interchange near Didcot into a hamburger roundabout.
The scheme, which will also add new slip roads, is designed to cut congestion on the A34, boost the economy and create jobs in the Science Vale Enterprise Zone.
But while the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is backing the Milton Interchange scheme, it has abandoned a bid for £3.7m to install traffic lights at the Cutteslowe roundabout in North Oxford.
The LEP is bidding for funding from the Government’s £170m pinch point fund, which is designed to tackle congestion on the roads network.
The 14-strong board unanimously agreed to back the Milton Interchange bid at a meeting last week, after receiving a report which said it requires “significant improvements to enable the junction to operate effectively with the level of growth planned for the area”.
If the Government backs the scheme, the project could take 21 months to complete, with construction taking place in 2014 and 2015.
Didcot town council leader Margaret Davies said: “There will be some pain before there is gain when building work takes place.”
Milton Park managing director James Dipple welcomed the scheme, adding: “Anything that improves infrastructure in the area will be good for business growth.”
The LEP said it would not support the Cutteslowe proposal because it wanted a more comprehensive solution to traffic problems in the area, before the development of the Northern Gateway scheme, which could bring 3,000 new jobs to land close to the Pear Tree interchange.
The Cutteslowe scheme would have seen traffic lights installed on the roundabout and bus priority lanes installed.
Residents living nearby were disappointed the bid was not being progressed. Former journalist Richard Davy, 82, of Hamilton Road, North Oxford, said: “Putting traffic lights on Cutteslowe roundabout would have been a good interim solution.”
County council executive member for transport Rodney Rose said: “The LEP has asked us to come back with a better projection that includes the Cutteslowe and Wolvercote roundabouts and a link road between the A40 and A44.”
Mr Rose said the bid for funding for Milton Interchange would run alongside a bid launched last month for £50m of government ‘city deals’ funding to improve the A34 and A40.
The Government is making £170m available in a second round of pinch point funding and the county council is hoping for a decision on the Milton Interchange bid as soon as possible, as the money has to be spent by 2014/2015.
Chairman of Oxfordshire LEP Adrian Shooter said: “The board endorsed the proposed improvements to Milton Interchange as having real potential to reduce congestion at this location and to do so without delay.”
City council leader Bob Price, a board member on the LEP, said the decision not to proceed with the bid for cash for Cutteslowe roundabout was also unanimous.
In February 2011, a £4m project was completed to improve the M40/A34 junction at Wendlebury near Bicester, by widening the southbound exits.
Work is expected to start this year on an £8.5m second phase, which is expected to include widening the A34 approach to the junction from two to four lanes.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE LEPs?
Local Enterprise Partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and businesses, set up by the Government in 2011 to boost local business, replacing the former Regional Development Agencies.
The Oxfordshire LEP brings together business representatives from the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses, Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Science Vale UK.
Board members include city council leader Bob Price, county council leader Ian Hudspeth, and South Oxfordshire District Council leader Ann Ducker.