A High Court judge today (26 October) has granted permission for campaigners to judicially review the Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to slash funding  for walking and cycling by 75% . Lawyers for Transport Action Network  argued that ministers made the decision oblivious to legal requirements. In particular, they had ignored climate, air quality and equalities duties, despite months earlier trumpeting the “significant” benefits of active travel for them.
Mr Justice Jay gave permission for a full hearing, saying this was “potentially an important case” concerning a legal provision that had not been looked at before. Modelled on road and rail investment, the Infrastructure Act 2015 requires the DfT to publish walking and cycling objectives, plus the resources to be made available to achieve them, in a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) .
The central target of half of urban journeys being walked or cycled by 2030 forms a key part of the UK’s climate and air quality plans. But, even before the cuts, the DfT forecast they would fail to meet this target . In a dramatic development hours before the hearing, DfT lawyers were forced to disclose slides  highlighting how the cuts would devastate sustainable travel in most of England’s local transport authorities.
The ruling comes the same day that the Government responded to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) 2023 Progress Report. The CCC report had set out how transport emissions were not forecast to fall fast enough and called for the Government to “[r]estore the funding allocated for active travel at Spending Review 2021” . Ramping up the pressure, the Public Accounts Committee is set to report on the cuts in the next few days . A full legal hearing is expected in early 2024, but before then officials will be required to disclose documentation to shed light on the decision.
Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network said:
“It’s fantastic to be making legal history. This could set a hugely helpful precedent for healthy travel. When they cut funding in March, ministers promised to find additional cash as soon as possible. Yet of the £36 billion saved from cutting HS2 this month, not a penny was dedicated to active travel. There wasn’t a single example of a walking or cycling scheme in the huge list of projects the Prime Minister was promising.
“It’s obvious that ministers are no longer serious, whether about their commitments to cut congestion, improve travel choices, address climate change or clean up our air. We’re disappointed that we had no choice but to take them to court. However, we’re delighted the judge agreed this important case deserves a full hearing.”
TAN is now seeking to crowdfund £40,000 to pay for its legal costs . With the active travel budget cut by over £200 million, each pound raised could unlock over £5,000 of funding if their claim succeeds. The group is represented by David Forsdick KC and Charles Bishop of Landmark Chambers, instructed by Leigh Day.
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:
“Transport Action Network believes that these cuts to national cycling and walking funding massively undermine the Government’s plans to address climate change and air pollution. It appears the Government hasn’t followed its own statutory rules in this area, so TAN is delighted the Court today has agreed a full hearing to question whether the minister’s decision was lawful.”
“It was only after independent scrutiny from a National Audit Office investigation that double-counting in active travel funding was revealed. The court case should shed light on the DfT’s lack of join-up between funding, cycling and walking objectives and targets to address climate change and air quality. This could be an uncomfortable ride for ministers.”
– ENDS –
Notes for editors
 On 9 March, ministers announced a cut of dedicated funds for the remainder of the Parliament from about £308 to £100 million. The larger figure still referred to includes spending from the start of Parliament, including temporary schemes removed after the pandemic and other government departments, for which there is a lack of transparency.
 See figure 4, page 19, National Audit Office report: Active Travel in England, June 2023. Percentage refers to drop in capital funding.
 TAN helps local communities fighting damaging road schemes, cuts to active travel and bus and rail services, and seeking sustainable alternatives. Although only established in 2019, it brings together people with over 100 years’ experience of environmental campaigning. More information at https://transportactionnetwork.org.uk/about-us/
 The Second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy was published in July 2022
 A progress report to Parliament (July 2022) forecasts only 41-47% would be walked or cycled by 2030, far short of the 50% target
 Contact TAN for a copy of the slides
 Recommendation R2023-150, page 387, Progress in Reducing Emissions: 2023 Report to Parliament, Climate Change Committee
 Public Accounts Committee Active travel in England Inquiry
 TAN’s crowdfunder can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-the-cuts-to-walking-and-cycling/
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