15 December: Yesterday’s local transport funding decisions were a huge disappointment, but the game isn’t over yet for two of the worst roads.
The decisions announced yesterday for which local major transport schemes would get DfT funding were a big disappointment. A further 21 schemes were given approval by Transport Secretary Justine Greening. Along with the 20 schemes announced alongside the Autumn Statement in November, this means almost the whole ‘Development Pool’ of projects is approved, and there was a virtually blanket nod for the new roads in the pool: 11 of the 13 bypasses and ring roads have now been given funding.
Effectively, the Treasury’s decision to fully fund the projects has undermined the ability of the Department for Transport to discriminate between good value and poor value schemes, or to support projects that help the Department’s wider goals like cutting carbon or increasing access to transport.
Seeing a competitive process where only the best schemes would win turned into a road-building bonanza has been incredibly frustrating. We have been supporting four local campaigns against the worst bypasses and ring roads for the past year. Groups of tireless and committed local campaigners have employed experts to look in detail at their roads and have found hard evidence for the shakiness of the cases made by local councils. At Campaign for Better Transport, we have also been highlighting how much local money was being squandered on these projects while councils were making cuts, and making the case nationally that the money should be invested in public transport and road maintenance rather than big new roads (see our briefing on the financial risks being taken by local authorities and our submissions to the DfT).
Two of the roads with the most local opposition now have their funding completely signed off: the South Bristol Link and the Kingskerswell Bypass. However, two further schemes still face further decisions before they are in the clear – the Norwich Northern Distributor Route (NNDR) and the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR).
We are very happy with the BHLR decision. It was not approved yesterday, and the DfT expressed serious concerns about environmental impact and doubts about the road’s ability to support regeneration in the area. East Sussex County Council has been given three months to look again at other transport options, including smaller road improvements and local rail. The NNDR was given approval, but only on condition the County Council agrees “to fund a package of sustainable transport measures in the city centre.”
Stephen Joseph, our chief executive, has written today to transport minister Norman Baker to ask how the final decisions on these two schemes will be made. In particular, we want to make sure that local people and campaigners are able to put their ideas forward for new transport plans, and that they are consulted on whether the measures in Norwich city centre and the alternative ideas for Bexhill and Hastings are any good.
We have also updated our map with the funding decisions, so you can see what will be happening in your local area.
The 11 bypasses, ‘link roads’ and ring roads approved from the Development Pool are:
- South Bristol Link Phase 1&2
- Kingskerswell Bypass
- Norwich Northern Distributor Route
- A18-A180 Link
- A43 Corby Link Road
- A684 Bedale-Aiskew-Leeming Bar Bypass
- Beverley Integrated Transport Plan
- Crewe Green Link Southern Section
- Lincoln Eastern Bypass
- Morpeth Northern Bypass
- Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor