TAN wins first round in roads battle

We’ve won the first round in our David and Goliath battle against the Department for Transport’s (DfT) £27bn roads programme. We were given permission to proceed with our legal challenge to the “largest ever roads programme” at the High Court this week. An order by Mrs Justice Lieven declared the case to be significant, meaning it will be fast-tracked for a full hearing by November.

The £27bn Road Investment Strategy 2 was announced alongside the Budget in March but had been years in the making. We’re challenging it on the basis that ministers published it without considering the net zero target, which became law in June 2019. The government’s response was that it was entitled to put off thinking about the implications until after it published a Transport Decarbonisation Plan later in 2020, which it is currently consulting on. This was despite the fact that ministers agreed any such plan will inevitably need to set out how to use cars less.

The legal challenge will now come at a crucial time, when the Chancellor is due to set out new spending priorities and transport ministers have to make decisions on flagship road schemes, such as the A303 Stonehenge and A303 Sparkford – Ilchester. These were due to be decided on 17 July but Grant Shapps MP has deferred a decision on both schemes until November, calling for more information.

With polling showing increased support for improving air quality but opposition to road building, it seems the wheels are already falling off the roads plan.

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