LONG-AWAITED plans to widen a 16-mile stretch of the A12 have moved a step closer after funding was approved by the Government.

Chancellor Sajid Javid revealed money for the project would be made available during his speech at the Conservative party conference on Monday.

Highways England is aiming to expand the number of lanes on the A12 between junction 19 at Boreham and junction 25 at Marks Tey.

Much of the road is two lanes wide at present and runs around Hatfield Peverel, Witham, Rivenhall and Kelvedon.

Braintree Council leader Graham Butland said: "This is another example of the Government responding to our calls for significant infrastructure investment in our part of Essex.

"There is still more that we would like to see but this is a very encouraging start and support our plan for developing the district."

There are hopes work on widening the A12 could begin as early as next year, but that will depend on whether plans to build three garden communities, including one at Marks Tey, are given the go ahead.

The uncertainty over whether the new towns will be approved means the news of funding for the A12 has been played down by some, including Witham Town Council.

The authority says it is awaiting further clarity on the scheme to ensure it “best suits the needs of local residents and businesses”.

A spokesman said: “Whilst it is encouraging to hear that funding is forthcoming for works to the A12, the town council keeps an open mind as to the challenges that are still yet to be overcome, accepting that complex infrastructure projects cannot be boiled down to binary options.”

Town council leader Michael Lager added: “Already being two years behind schedule, the announcement of this funding appears to be nothing new. The town council has actively encouraged Highways England to commence works on the southern section of the A12 on the basis that action is needed now.

“The council will review final proposals when and if we see them.”

An inspector is likely to give their verdict on the latest supporting evidence for garden communities next year.