INNOVATIVE proposals for the A382 link road development near Newton Abbot to become the UK’s first 'carbon negative' highway have received Government support.

The Live Labs 2 programme, which is funded by the DfT (Department for Transport) and organised by ADEPT (The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport), has today (Wednesday 25 January) announced that we have been successful in DCC's £3.7 million bid for the project to decarbonise the construction and maintenance of the road.

It is one of only seven ground-breaking projects across the country to be awarded a share of the programme’s £30 million funding pot, following a 'Dragon’s Den' style pitch to a panel of independent experts.

The ambitious A382 scheme aims to show that carbon negative highways are possible without the need for offsetting – providing a 'live laboratory' opportunity to promote change in the design, construction and maintenance of roads.

The pilot has been chosen to not only accelerate decarbonisation across highway infrastructure, but also transform the approach of local authorities in delivering net zero local roads right across the UK.

As a local authority DCC declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and are currently ahead of their targets to being a net zero authority by 2030.

DCC is already taking steps to drive down carbon emissions in our maintenance of the county’s roads, working with the University of Exeter and maintenance contractor Milestone Infrastructure to develop a “carbon calculator” to identify and measure the carbon produced in every aspect of road repairs and construction.

Potential carbon saving measures proposed for the project include using local recycled materials, ensuring construction plant and equipment is sustainably powered, installing street lighting that can generate power, and establishing low maintenance verges and hedgerows.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: 'Reducing carbon emissions across our services is a key element of Devon County Council’s Strategic Plan and we are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030. This project perfectly complements our ambitions for a cleaner, greener Devon with a thriving economy and brings innovation to the heart of infrastructure development in our county.

'Moving past net zero represents an industry first and this project will give the designers, contractors and manufacturers the opportunity to try new solutions tailored to this new set of priorities. The findings from this project have the opportunity to change the face of highway construction and maintenance locally and nationally.'

Roads Minister Richard Holden said: 'The UK is a world leader in technology and innovation and we must use that strength to drive decarbonisation and the next generation of high tech jobs that go alongside it. We are supporting this vital agenda to help level-up through £30 million funding for ground-breaking projects and boosting regional connections to support growth. The Government is determined to create good, well paid jobs – via innovation and investment across the UK – as we accelerate the road to net zero.'

Dr Dan Lash, from the University of Exeter, said: 'We have been working with Devon County Council for some time on assessing the climate change impact of its road projects. This has involved producing innovative tools, and standards that are in the process of being incorporated into national guidance for the sector. We are delighted that this project has been funded, and look forward to working with Devon County Council and its supply chain partners to test in practice how low carbon the A382 scheme can be.'

Mark Kemp, President of ADEPT, said: 'Tackling the carbon impact of our highways infrastructure is critical to our path to net zero but hard to address, so I am pleased that bidding was so competitive. Live Labs 2 has a huge ambition – to fundamentally change how we embed decarbonisation into our decision-making and to share our learning with the wider sector to enable behaviour change. Each project will bring local authority led innovation and a collaborative approach to create a long-lasting transformation of business as usual. I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn from our successful bidders and taking that into my own organisation.'

As well as delivering the A382 carbon negative highway pilot, DCC will also be working in partnership with some of the other successful Live Labs 2 projects to share pioneering findings.

The aim of the projects will be to change established approaches within civil engineering, infrastructure and construction sectors.

Work on the next phase of the A382 improvements is due to start in spring 2024.