We first requested Transport Secretary Grant Shapps review the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN) back in March 2020. This is the policy used to determine applications for new roads. It was published in 2014 and is seriously out of date in a number of areas such as climate change, air pollution, natural capital (biodiversity) and design. It also effectively bars decision makers from taking into account the carbon emissions from new roads. Quite simply it is not fit for purpose during a climate and ecological emergency.
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The Government dragged its feet for 7 months before making a decision on whether to review the NPSNN but then failed to tell us for nearly two weeks. That left us only around 4 weeks to launch a legal challenge (instead of the usual 6) which we did in December 2020. It also refused to release all the documents associated with the decision, only releasing the advice to Ministers the day before we filed our claim. In order to see the documents we had to agree not to share the information with anyone, so were effectively gagged from telling people that Grant Shapps had overruled his civil servants, who had recommended the NPSNN be reviewed.
We were then told Grant Shapps would make a new decision by the end of February 2021. He eventually made another decision in March not to review the NPSNN. So we've had to withdraw our original claim and launch a new one to challenge his latest decision.
The Secretary of State finally announced on 15 July that he would back down and would review the NPSNN, but then announced on 22 July that the policy would not be suspended and would remain in place for the almost two years needed to complete the review. We have now launched further legal action, challenging the decision to refuse to suspend the policy.
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So while the Government is enacting project speed when it comes to building new infrastructure, it seems that project sloth is the winner when it comes to tackling climate change.