LONG-promised funding for a key interchange on the A34 has finally been pledged.

The Government has officially promised more than £9m for a 'diamond interchange' at Lodge Hill in Abingdon, which would see the creation of south-facing slip roads.

At a meeting on Wednesday night, an Oxfordshire County Council officer said he was 'very confident' the slip roads will be built by 2020, noting a similar timescale for the recently-completed Chilton Interchange. 

For years residents, councillors and MPs have lobbied the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for the junction, to ease congestion through the town.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid announced £9.45m for the £18m scheme this morning, which will be given over a four-year period, with developers looking to build 950 homes in North Abingdon contributing the rest of the cash.

He said: "This funding will bring much-needed improvements to the A34 for motorists and help to deliver thousands of new homes that Oxfordshire desperately needs.

"Most people are willing to accept new housing in their areas, but they don’t want to see massive development when local roads are already under pressure."

It comes just months after the junction was thrown into doubt, after the Government snubbed a £382m bid by OxLEP for major infrastructure projects and awarded just £24m.

Campaigners refreshed calls for funding last month, insisting the homes planned for North Abingdon should not be built until the interchange is built.

On Wednesday night a crucial Vale of White Horse District Council planning meeting unanimously passed the 950 homes plan, and rejected campaigners' calls for a condition stating CEG cannot build the homes until the slip roads are in place.

They stuck to a condition set out by council officers, which only limits the number of homes occupied.

See more about the meeting here.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said : "The delivery of much needed housing in and around Abingdon is heavily reliant on funding for new slips at Lodge Hill.

"This announcement means that vital infrastructure will be built at the early phase of development to cope with the associated additional traffic."

He said the council will work with Highway's England, which manages the A34, to deliver the slips 'as quickly as possible'.

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of OxLEP, said: "This announcement represents a further positive step in ensuring Oxfordshire has an infrastructure that is fit for purpose, supporting the county's desire to grow.

"We expect the Lodge Hill investment to unlock greater housing growth in the area, give better connectivity to key hubs, such as Milton Park and the Harwell campus."

Currently drivers wanting to travel south on the A34 from North Abingdon have to cross town to the Marcham Interchange, piling more pressure onto the town's roads.

Liberal Democrat Emily Smith, who is among those pushing for the infrastructure to be built prior to the homes, was hesitant about the funding.

The Abingdon North county councillor said: "I am pleased the government is finally responding to the community's campaign for the diamond junction, but am disappointed this is only a 'pledge' rather than money in the bank and that the funds will be released over four years.

"We could still end up with housing before the junction is built, which is clearly not good enough.

"The planning committee will need to read the small print very carefully before agreeing planning permission and conditions this evening.

"I urge the committee apply common sense and either turn down the application or change the conditions to make sure that the infrastructure we need is in place before building begins.

"During the county council election campaign, this development was the most common issues raised.

"I did not meet a single person who thought building these houses before the Lodge Hill slips was acceptable."

But Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber said he was 'absolutely delighted' by the funding.

He said: "Our council has spent a great deal of time campaigning for this interchange, which is vital to supporting the future growth of Abingdon. 

“We are keen to see the scheme get under way as quickly as possible and will be doing everything in our power to ensure this happens.”

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said the diamond interchange was a 'vital scheme', adding: "This fantastic news, bringing the vital diamond junction one step closer to reality.

"I will be working to make sure that on top of this £9.45m from the Government, developers and the councils play their part in providing the rest of the funding."

Ms Moran echoed concerns about housing, adding: “If necessary, funding should be brought forward so that the diamond junction is in place before people move into developments in North Abingdon. 

"Otherwise we risk hundreds of homes being built before this crucial infrastructure is in place."

She said the project had been 25 years in the pipeline and thanked people for 'making their voice heard' to push for action. 

At Wednesday's planning meeting, Ms Moran highlighted a petition signed by 1,046 residents, calling for the slips to be completed before new residents move in.