16 July 2013
Transport and green groups have sounded a warning about Government's massive road building programme. They have today published a map showing how widening plans would impact on the country's most important landscapes and habitats.
Groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and Campaign for Better Transport have published the map to highlight areas of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage Site and other important sites which could be damaged by Government plans for new road building.
Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport, said
"People will be shocked by the scale of the environmental vandalism that the Government is planning. Smothering tarmac across our best loved and most visited countryside will not solve traffic problems or create jobs. What it will do is generate massive opposition."
Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, the Campaign to Protect Rural England said
“To plan a road in one National Park may be regarded as a misfortune, to do so in two looks like carelessness. But to consider road building in five of our most cherished landscapes suggests an alarming lack of concern for our beautiful countryside and that something is very wrong indeed with the Government’s roads vision.”
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, said:
“We’re not going to break our dependence on fossil fuels with a Government that is intent on driving up road use. The poisonous legacy of this massive road building programme will be increased traffic congestion, air pollution and dangerous climate change.”
Sue Holden, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust, said
"Road building is one of the biggest threats to irreplaceable wildlife habitats such as ancient woodland and has a tendency to be ancient woodland destruction by stealth, with schemes only resulting in more congestion as traffic increases to fill them. Dualling the A21 in Kent will completely destroy 9 hectares of ancient woodland and will leave the remainder open, fragmented and vulnerable. The Government's own Forestry Policy states an aspiration for no further loss of ancient woodland - it's essential that this is understood and communicated before the 2% that remains in the UK is lost forever."
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts, said:
"The government’s latest road reforms repeat the mistakes of the past and threaten to further erode and fragment our natural heritage. These reforms illustrate that parts of Government still fail to grasp that rather than investing in concrete, our priority must be on improving our understanding of and accounting for the value of nature and rebuilding our natural capital.”
The new map highlights sites across the country with the highest levels of national protection which will be affected by road building plans unveiled by Government in the Spending Review. This includes a plan to “upgrade the national non-motorway network managed by the Highways Agency with a large proportion moved to dual-lane and grade-separated road” (Investing in Britain’s Future, HM Treasury). Schemes include:
- South Downs National Park – A major study looking at the A27 and A259 will again raise the spectre of a south coast motorway. Former Poet Laureate and current CPRE President, Andrew Motion, is among those who have voiced their dismay at the prospect of major road-building in the country's newest National Park.
- Peak District – The National Park would be affected by another study looking at trans-Pennine routes between Sheffield and Manchester including potential dualling A628.
- Stonehenge World Heritage site and Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – affected by plans in the Spending Round to dual the A303 and resurrect the project for a multi-billion tunnel under Stonehenge
- Lake District – Government’s proposal to dual the large majority of trunks roads would have major implications for the A66 and A595 through the National Park.
- Norfolk Broads – Plans to dual A47 Acle Straight, a zombie road project which has been repeatedly opposed by the Broads Authority and the Environment Agency.
1. Government set out details of its road building plan in the document 'Investing in Britain's Future’. This was published alongside the Spending Round announcement on 27 June. It includes:
- 221 miles of extra lanes to the motorways (by opening the hard shoulder)
- Building all planned Highways Agency road projects (HA budget will increase from £1.5bn 2015/16 to £3.8bn in 2019/20)
- Feasibility studies looking at A303 to the South West, the A27 on the south coast, the A1 north of Newcastle, the A1 Newcastle-Gateshead, access to Leeds airport and trans-Pennine Sheffield to Manchester
- Dual carriageway to replace the large proportion of HA-managed single carriageway roads
- In addition, non-trunk road schemes are expected to be brought forward by the Local Enterprise Partnerships. From 2015/16, some funding for these will be available from the £2bn p/a Local Growth Fund (LGF), also announced in the spending round (the LGF has folded in money formerly assigned to sustainable transport via the Local Sustainable Transport Fund)
- Other schemes may come forward through further route based strategies.
Full details of the plan are available on the HM Treasury website.
2. Government is shortly to publish a green paper on roads reform. This is expected to detail options for building and managing the proposed new roads and is likely to include toll roads and private finance proposals delivered by a reformed Highways Agency.
3. A National Rally Against Road Building took place on 13 July. This took place near Crowhurst on the route of the Bexhill Hastings Link Road. The rally was supported by Greenpeace, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), CPRE Sussex, BLINKRR - Bexhill Link Road Resistance, Crowhurst Road to Nowhere Action Group, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB. Professionally-taken photographs of the rally are available from Campaign for Better Transport.