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Campaigners respond to National Policy Statement for national networks

16 December 2014

New national planning policy on roads will tie the hands of local communities and impose new roads and pollution on them.

Campaign for Better Transport has commented on the Government's National Policy Statement for National Networks, published today.

The Government's consultation seeking comments on its draft version of this National Policy Statement (NPS) which was published in December 2013 received the highest ever number of responses to an NPS consultation, with 5,800 people responding. Most were members of the public objecting to the way it made 'predict and provide' road-building a national planning policy, and to a 'carbon gag' clause restricting the consideration of carbon emissions from planning decisions on road and rail.

Sian Berry, Roads and Sustainable Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said:

"There are still strong shades of old-fashioned 'predict and provide' about this new policy. It seeks to tie the hands of communities across England who want to prevent new or wider roads from devastating their local area, and takes a range of important issues - including air pollution and alternative schemes - out of proper consideration during the planning process.

"The NPS predicts a 30 per cent increase in traffic by 2030, wrongly says traffic has increased in recent years when it is now no higher than in the 1990s, and continues to claim that wider roads will cut congestion, when we have known for decades that new road capacity creates new traffic and quickly fills up again.

"After a massive response from the public to the draft policy, the Government has toned down some of its rhetoric in this final version. But the reality is that this policy is designed to make sure every one of the the Chancellor's £15 billion of strategic road projects is built without effective scrutiny of its environmental impact or potential alternatives."


Notes to Editors

1. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

2. The National Networks National Policy Statement publication is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-policy-statement-for-national-networks

3. The Government's response to its public consultation on the draft NPS Consultation has also been published: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387351/cm-8977-accessible.pdf

4. Campaign for Better Transport's criticism of the draft NPS: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/blogs/roads/030214-national-policy-statement-action

5. Key paragraphs in the new policy include:

Traffic growth and forecasts
Section 2.4 predicts traffic will increase 30 per cent by 2030.

Section 4.6 reduces the ability of local objectors to challenge national traffic forecasts.

Considering other options
Section 4.27 tries to limit the consideration of other options to the financial decisions made by the Government and the new Strategic Highways Company (the majority of SHC developments will be 'Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects and so will be considered under the NPS).

Air pollution
Section 4.50 appears to try to limit the legal obligations of the new Strategic Highways Company to reduce air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible. However, air pollution is given 'substantial weight' as a consideration in section 5.13, and requirements not to create new breaches of legal limits are included.

Failure to pass on legal duties fully would go against the strong recommendation of the Environmental Audit Committee last week, that a legal duty for the Strategic Highways Company to protect air quality should be included as a specific clause in the Infrastructure Bill: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/campaigners-respond-damning-house-comm...

In section 3.8, the policy also admits that it will have a detrimental effect on air pollution, saying: "Total PM10 and NOX might be expected to increase slightly." before falling later.

Climate change
Sections 5.17 and 5.18 appear to replace the previous 'carbon gag' clause and allow planning inspectors to consider carbon emissions in planning decisions. However, section 5.18 limits the impact of this, saying: "increase in carbon emissions is not a reason to refuse development consent, unless the increase in carbon emissions resulting from the proposed scheme are so significant that it would have a material impact on the ability of Government to meet its carbon reduction targets."