We’re challenging the Government again, this time on its outdated roads policy (“National Policy Statement for National Networks”). This sets out the Government’s view on road building and how major road schemes are judged in the planning system. It’s this policy that allows the Department for Transport (DfT) to approve damaging road schemes, ignoring the carbon emissions they generate.
We’ve launched our crowdfunder today to raise money for this critically important legal case. Please donate if you are able, and share it widely on social media.
Understanding of climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss have all increased hugely since the policy was approved in 2014. While other government departments have changed their policies, the DfT refuses. It wants nothing to get in the way of its “largest ever” roads programme which will cost £90 billion by 2035.
Local communities and environmental organisations have tried unsuccessfully to question this policy in planning inquiries and legal challenges against individual schemes. Despite surface transport now being the UK’s biggest source of carbon emissions, inspectors and judges are not allowed to take account of how laying more tarmac is speeding up climate change. Our only option is to tackle the policy head on through a legal challenge.
In addition, since the roads policy was adopted in 2014 there have also been significant changes in understanding of health impacts of air pollution (especially relevant in the pandemic), natural capital (in particular biodiversity) and good design. Our challenge calls on DfT to rethink its policy in all these areas.
This is a critical time for road building. We are expecting decisions on four major road projects early next year:
- A38 Derby Junctions which threatens veteran trees in a park.
- A1 Birtley to Coal House Improvement Scheme, south of Gateshead which would damage two Local Wildlife Sites and bat roosts.
- A303 Sparkford to Ilchester Dualling in Somerset which severs rights of way for walkers and cyclists.
- M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange improvement which would destroy 17 Grade II Heritage Trees and place a further 32 trees at risk at RHS Wisley in Surrey
Another large road scheme, the M54-M6 Link Road in the West Midlands, which Highways England estimates would increase emissions by over 2 million extra tonnes of carbon, and threatens ancient woodland, is currently going through public Examination right now. The A1 Morpeth to Ellingham increases emissions by 1.4 million tonnes and will shortly be starting its Examination. The massive carbon emissions from both these schemes are dismissed as “insignificant” under this policy we are challenging.
That’s not all. There are many more controversial schemes coming through the pipeline, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, which we recently revealed would increase carbon emissions by over 5 million tonnes.
To stop the Government’s environment-trashing, climate-busting road building frenzy it’s essential this outdated policy is rewritten for the 21st century. As currently worded it is almost impossible for a local community to protect their local environment. Please help us to do that by donating to our legal costs if you are able.