A NEW board which will give Dorset control of how tens of millions of pounds is spent on road and transport improvements could be in place by September.

The regional transport body is designed to enable areas to speak with ‘one voice’ on strategic planning as well as produce a strategic transport plan, which will include rail schemes and investments in the wider highway corridors that exist across council boundaries.

Councillors at a meeting of the Heart of the South West Joint Committee said a formal proposal is being prepared for authorities including Dorset recommending the establishment of a Shadow Sub-National Transport Body at the earliest opportunity in the autumn.

Under the proposals, Dorset County Council will work with counterparts in Devon, Torbay, Plymouth, Somerset and Cornwall to create the South West Peninsula sub-national transport body.

A report to the committee said this will initially be an informal partnership and options for the governance and resourcing arrangements to be applied to the new body are being investigated.

However, in the long term, the report said an option to move towards establishing a statutory body status remains but is not considered essential at this stage.

Having statutory body status will mean the region will have legal powers devolved from the government to make transport investment decision-making across the area.

Cllr Rebecca Knox, leader of Dorset County Council, said: “In terms of the sub-national transport body, DCC has been engaged in the discussions across the south west and supports the proposals to create such a body.”

, which will enhance the voice of the south-west with Government and result in greater investment in infrastructure within the region.

“The approach builds on existing arrangements such as the long-standing Local Transport Planning work DCC does with Poole & Bournemouth and the Peninsula Rail Task Force.”

With the creation of the body, key A roads across the county which have been identified in the Department for Transport (DfTs) Major Roads Network could then be upgraded through proposed projects which include bypasses, missing links between existing routes, road widening and major junction improvements.

Among the roads which have been identified for potential projects are the A35 between Bere Regis and the Bakers Arms roundabout, the A354 between Weymouth town centre and Dorchester and the A37 between Yeovil and Dorchester.