29 November: Hugely disappointing news as the Treasury announces extra money so that the DfT can approve every one of its road schemes.
The Treasury neatly side-stepped a year's work by experts, campaigners and civil servants on 45 local transport projects in the DfT's 'development pool' today, as the Chancellor announced he was providing funding for all 45 schemes and gave the go-ahead to the Kingskerswell Bypass and the South Bristol Link Road to grab headlines.
The Treasury's announcement of an off-budget National Infrastructure Plan listed 35 transport schemes, including 20 of the 45 development pool schemes. Decisions on these schemes had not been expected until December after robust analysis. As well as the Kingskerswell Bypass and the South Bristol Link Road, the go-ahead was also given to the Lincoln Eastern Bypass, the Manchester Airport Link Roads, the A453 'widening' near Nottingham, the A164 Humber Bridge to Beverley, and the A43 Corby Link Road, amongst others.
As for the rest of the development pool, the Treasury said there will be "extra funding to enable all schemes to proceed, subject to assurance" and we are now awaiting decisions on the controversial Bexhill to Hastings Link Road and Norwich Northern Distributor Road.
As the Treasury has injected more cash into the competitive development pool, this means duff schemes which wouldn't normally have gone ahead are now advancing simply so the Chancellor can present long lists to the media.
We are all justifiably angry as ourselves, the Kingskerswell Alliance and Transport for Greater Bristol had hired consultants to produce an evidence-based response to the funding bids showing major flaws in the plans. Instead it appears the schemes have been bulldozed through to allow the Chancellor to do some headline grabbing posturing today.
Analysis of the Kingskerswell Bypass showed that it would simply move traffic jams further down the road. It would also be environmentally devastating, trashing the habitats of rare bats, birds and newts. The South Bristol Link Road will at best shave just 2 minutes off journey times, and passes through Common Land and the green belt.
This is unlikely to be the end of the road for the campaigns as there are grounds for legal challenges now, and later there will most likely be protests.
A guest blog by our Roads Campaigner, Rebecca Lush Blum