Work on Melton’s long-awaited bypass could begin two years earlier than expected, in the spring of 2020, following a move to fast-track the scheme.
The government awarded £2.8 million towards preparing a business case for the project in November.
At that stage, it was anticipated that building would start no earlier than 2022-23 if routes had been approved and funding was in place by then.
But, the Department of Transport (DfT) has since indicated it wanted to see an acceleration in the programme for the scheme, which is being jointly pursued by Melton Council and Leicestershire County Council.
Councillors at County Hall backed the request at their latest cabinet meeting, paving the way for a consultation to be launched into a preferred route as early as late summer or early autumn.
Melton Council leader, Councillor Pam Posnett, who is also a county councillor, welcomed the moves to bring forward the bypass.
She said the DfT indicated there would be a better chance of securing funding if the scheme was brought forward.
“If it all goes to plan we would be looking to have a public inquiry around November 2018 and we could be on site to start building it in March 2020,” said Councillor Posnett.
The business case for the scheme will help the government decide on whether to pay for the proposed ‘Eastern Distributor Road’, the section of the planned bypass not earmarked for funding by developers planning to build thousands of houses around the town. This would link the A607 and Melton Spinney Road with the A606 Burton Road.
Work is already being carried out to liaise with local land and property owners, to conduct geotechnical and topographical surveys around the east of the town and to take environmental surveys where the route may go through.
Melton North Action Group want the bypass to be built before any new housing developments are approved because they believe the existing Melton infrastructure would not support the thousands of new properties.
It commented: “We are pleased to hear some positive news from the DfT of course, but the devil is always in the detail. A positive well planned case for funding needs to be made and to hear the DfT is talking in terms of time is an encouraging start.”