THE public inquiry into the Highways Agency's proposal to permanently close the gap in the A30 at Fingle Glen commences on September 23. I will be giving evidence to the inquiry and in support of those who are calling for the gap to be reopened (it is currently closed under a temporary order).

There are many arguments for reopening the gap; not least the huge inconvenience to local residents in and around Tedburn St Mary who as a consequence of the closure are collectively travelling many thousands of additional miles a year (with the associated costs and environmental damage).

There are also issues of safety (with traffic being displaced on to more minor roads, such as the C50, causing additional and as yet un-assessed risks), traffic congestion and pollution.

However, there are a couple of considerations that are typically given less emphasis and upon which my evidence will focus.

Firstly the effects on businesses rather than on residents alone and secondly the impact that road alterations can have well outside the immediate area concerned.

By way of example I will be presenting evidence in respect of Denis Brinicombe, a manufacturer and distributor of animal health and feed products.

The business is based at Fordton just south of Crediton and is a very important local employer with 104 staff. It distributes its products throughout the country.

The problem arises where the company's vehicles travel to and from the Fordton factory via the south east (eg, to and from the A38). This traffic, which used to use the Fingle Glen Junction, is now being displaced through the centre of Exeter, resulting in increased travel times (as well as some increase in distances).

Time costs money and the calculations that I will present to the inquiry will show that these costs can quickly multiply up to huge sums for businesses even where they operate at a significant distance from the junction.

There must of course be full consideration of the issues of safety (the principal reason that the Highways Department are seeking a permanent closure) and here I know that my fellow campaigners have prepared their ground well — but we must also ensure that the inspector takes into account all the wider impacts of the closure of this junction, including its effects on those struggling in local businesses and living and operating outside the immediate area of Fingle Glen.

Mel Stride

Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate

Central Devon