A PETITION signed by more than 500 businesses has been handed into the Government calling on it to back investment in the A120 as soon as possible.

It was handed in at a Parliamentary reception for the A120 campaign co-hosted by Essex MPs Will Quince, Bernard Jenkin and James Cleverly.

The reception was attended by John Hayes, the minister responsible for national roads, who in response vowed to act as “the champion within central Government for Essex and the A120”.

The reception followed the opening of a formal consultation into five preferred route options for a new dual carriageway on the notoriously troublesome road.

The dualling would take place between Braintree and the A12 Expressway.

The A120 campaign is being led by the Haven Gateway Partnership.

George Kieffer, chairman, said: “The reception was an incredibly united and strong show of support by our region’s businesses, MPs and local authority leaders.

“We are grateful to John Hayes for delivering his keynote address during which he undertook to be the advocate for the long-awaited improvements.

“Notwithstanding the results of the consultation with residents over the coming eight weeks, we are confident the business community in our region has made itself heard loud and clear.

“We are urging all businesses to submit a response to the consultation. This is a once in a generation opportunity to change infrastructure in East Anglia fundamentally and for the better.”

Mr Quince, Conservative MP for Colchester, described Mr Hayes’ commitment as “massively helpful” and a great confidence booster for campaigners.

He added: “It was important we show the minister we are all absolutely behind this.”

The scheme could cost anywhere between £475million and £800million depending on the chosen option, Funding would be achieved by the road’s inclusion in the Government’s road investment strategy for 2020 to 2025.

For more information go to www.a120essex.co.uk.

A decision on the preferred option will be made by autumn this year and the council will begin putting together its case for inclusion in the road investment strategy.

Eleven consultation events are being held during the consultation process and the council want to hear from residents whether they have a preferred option or not.