A new transport panel is being proposed for the South West to campaign for better road and rail links and present a stronger case for infrastructure improvements.
The panel would cover Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay as well as Cornwall and potentially Dorset, and the government initiative received backing from the Heart of the South West Joint Committee on Friday.
The Government wants more cross-boundary collaboration on transport issues and would expect the South West panel to work with authorities along the M4 corridor to make the most of strategic road and rail investment in the region.
Angry provisional driver jailed for horror smash outside police station
The transport panel will need to be agreed by each of its 23 constituent organisations as well as Cornwall and Dorset councils before it can be set up.
Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart said: “We can achieve so much more when we join together to make the voice of the South West heard in Westminster and Whitehall.
“We have just proved what we can do working as a county council with our MPs and district colleagues in winning cash for the North Devon link road.
“Multiply that by acting in concert with our regional colleagues and we can present a much stronger case for the road and rail improvements that will benefit the whole peninsula.”
Urgent plea to end confusion and revolutionise bin collections
Somerset County Council leader, Cllr David Fothergill, who was re-elected to chair the Joint Committee, added: “The Joint Committee is about working across boundaries to improve productivity and deliver real benefits to residents.
“We are already delivering growth and increased productivity but we can do more and, to achieve that, we need much improved road and rail links.
“That’s why it was important for us to take the first steps towards a transport panel for the entire South West peninsula. We’re all inter-connected by the transport infrastructure here in the South West and it makes sense for us to be lobbying with one voice.”
It is hoped a shadow panel could be set up in September if all the county, unitary and district councils that make up the Heart of the South West agree.
The Joint Committee also received an update on its ambitious Productivity Strategy that aims to double productivity over the next 20 years.
The Joint Committee met for the first time in March. It is made up of council leaders and other lead representatives of county, unitary and district councils across Devon and Somerset along with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, the Local Enterprise Partnership and local Clinical Commissioning Groups.
It is a means through which the authorities and organisations can work together to improve productivity and continue to work with Government on policy agendas including devolution.
In some areas, the work of the Leaders will go wider than just the HotSW area where it makes sense to work across boundaries with partners with common interests.
The transport proposal is one example of this wider working.