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Councils renege on sustainable transport plans

27 March 2018

Campaign for Better Transport has raised concerns that the planning system is allowing councils to backtrack on agreed packages of transport measures because there are no checks and balances in place to ensure schemes are delivered as promised in their entirety. 

Local authority transport packages are often designed to work alongside the construction of a new road, to try and lock in some of the benefits which would otherwise be lost to rising traffic and congestion, and are a condition of the Development Consent Order approved by the Secretary of State.

Campaign for Better Transport is concerned that because councils have the ability to sign off their own work, they are doing so before sustainable transport elements of the package have been implemented. This means that whilst a new road is completed, often at a much higher cost than originally budgeted for, accompanying sustainable transport measures are being cancelled or delayed without consequence. 

Despite this constituting a legal breach of the Development Consent Order made in parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport, there are no known cases where enforcement action has been taken.  

Chris Todd, from Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is a problem; councils are effectively being allowed to mark their own homework. The system needs to change so that they can no longer sign off their own schemes and are held to account for their failings. Norfolk County Council is the latest council to renege on a legal order to implement sustainable transport measures originally agreed as part of its planning approval, but it is not the first and certainly won’t be the last unless this enforcement loophole in the planning system is closed.”

Norfolk County Council recently completed the new Northern Distributor Road. The road was given planning permission as part of a package of measures, including sustainable transport options, which had to be in place before the road could open. The road is due to be fully open next month (April 2018). The legal requirements of the Development Consent Order were for an action plan and feasibility study of promised measures, but these have been delayed until after the road opens, therefore breaching the Order. Norfolk County Council has blamed an overspend on the road and simply signed the scheme off.


Andrew Boswell, an independent environmental consultant, has written to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport asking him to investigate the situation in Norfolk as a matter of urgency.


Andrew Boswell said: “The council intended the Northern Distributor Road to support housing development and the early delivery of these sustainable transport measures alongside the road are necessary to prevent people being locked-in to private car commuting. The Department for Transport must not turn a blind eye to this, especially when the Committee on Climate Change are advising that transport emissions must be cut by 44 per cent by 2030 and enhanced policies for modal shift are required from Government. The Minister's Order has been breached, and he must take action to secure the promised sustainable transport package as soon as possible.”


For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. For copies of the letter to Chris Grayling and the relevant Norfolk County Council sign off document, please contact the press office.
  2. 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).