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Campaigners call for more trees, less tarmac, in the Government’s forthcoming roads strategy

31 August 2017

An alliance of 17 environmental groups is proposing a fresh approach to the Government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) focused on improving existing roads and motorways rather than building new ones.

Their joint report, Rising to the challenge: a shared green vision for RIS2, co-ordinated by Campaign for Better Transport, calls for funding to be prioritised for a ‘green retrofit’ of the strategic road network ahead of new road capacity, and for the Road Investment Strategy to be assessed against the UK carbon budget.


Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Government’s Road Investment Strategy needs to focus on how existing roads can be improved, not on building new road capacity. Our joint report sets out a clear case for a greener RIS2. With a focus on green retrofit and better integration with the rest of the transport network, Highways England can reduce the impact of roads to benefit people and the environment alike.”


The report sets out three key principles for RIS2:

·         Fix it First, focusing on making improvements to the existing network, including green retrofit

·         An integrated strategy, including better links with local and non-motorised transport

·         Environmental leadership, prioritizing cutting carbon & air pollution, and protecting the landscape and biodiversity.


The report builds on the 2014 report Better not bigger, which led to the £900 million designated funds for environmental improvements in the first Road Investment Strategy. The new report calls for these funds to be retained and expanded to deliver a green retrofit of the network in the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2).


The report includes examples of best practice in the UK and around the world to outline many ways the existing road network could be improved, including:

·         Stronger protection for landscape and heritage from road schemes

·         Tree planting to improve flood protection and cut pollution

·         Green bridges to connect wildlife areas across motorways and trunk roads

·         The use of quieter road surfaces to reduce noise pollution

·         Rollout of electric vehicle charging points

·         Better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and bus passengers

·         Priority for public transport at key junctions.




For further information please contact Bridget Fox on 020 7566 6488 / 07984 773 468 or bridget.fox@bettertransport.org.uk


Notes to Editors


Additional quotes from other organisations:


Daniel Carey-Dawes, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Building more roads simply creates more traffic while damaging our landscapes. So instead of spending vast amounts on white elephant schemes, the Government should invest in a greener road network, as well as rail, cycling and walking.”


Rachel Hackett, Living Landscape Development Manager, The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Our vision is for a network of wildlife-rich corridors delivered alongside the strategic road network, connected via natural green bridges, which reach into our towns and countryside. The green retrofit programme introduced in 2014, was welcome. But much more is needed to fix the deep-seated problems of past decisions. The next Road Investment Strategy presents a real opportunity for Government to make a much bolder investment in the environment and to demonstrate its genuine commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it”.


Richard Barnes, Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust, said: “Highways England has positive intentions but the reality is currently somewhat different. It is impossible to achieve net gain or even no net loss of biodiversity when ancient woodland is destroyed; it is irreplaceable. Road building doesn’t have to be at the detriment of the natural environment; we have seen some evidence of forward thinking such as the Hindhead tunnel, this is the standard to which all other schemes should aspire.”


Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate & Energy, WWF, said: “We can’t tackle climate change without fundamental changes in how we travel and the biggest change is likely to be away from fossil fuel engines, towards electric vehicles.  A comprehensive network of charging points is vital to securing this shift. Private sector investment in rapid charge points at motorway service areas is already making our roads network more accessible for clean vehicles; but we need more to keep pace with the scale of change needed in order to hit climate and air quality targets. Boosting the growth of this network must be a core priority for the UK Government, and at the heart of a wider strategy that grows quality public transport, promotes vehicle sharing, and prioritises safe space for people who walk and cycle.”


Joe Irvin, CEO, Living Streets, said: “Highways England’s roads are there to serve the wider public, including people on foot and bikes, not just the motor vehicles that use them. That requires attractive footways, safe pedestrian crossings and routes for bicycles, with proper maintenance, good signage and lighting, connection to community spaces and public transport, and care for the environment including air quality. HE should listen to local priorities. Pedestrians and cyclists must not be an after-thought.”


Mark Weston, Director of Access, The British Horse Society, said: “It is important that The Government’s Road Investment Strategy improves access for, and the safety of vulnerable road users, along and across the strategic road network, this is particularly important for equestrians so that provision is made for them when it is for walkers and cyclists.”


Gloria Elliott OBE, Chief Executive, Noise Abatement Society, said: “The adverse impacts of noise from surface transport have been linked to heart disease, stress, sleeplessness and obesity, to name but a few. It is critical for the government to ensure that all new and retrofitted roads significantly reduce and nullify the adverse impacts from noise in the context of sustainable development.”


Ben McCarthy, Director of Strategy, Plantlife, said: "Protecting and improving the biodiversity of habitats surrounding our existing road network can have a profound impact on the prospects of our plants and the wealth of wildlife they underpin. In total, Britain's road verges play home to over 700 species of wild plants, more than in any other part of the landscape. 12% of those species are either threatened with extinction or headed in that direction, with some our rarest flowers now only found clinging on for life on Britain's embattled road verges. Only better road verge management for nature will halt their journey towards extinction and it is essential that this is addressed before new road capacity plans are green-lit."


Roger Geffen MBE, Policy Director, Cycling UK said: “Current Government emphasis on investing in motorways and trunk roads is misplaced, and worsens the problems of congestion, pollution, road danger and physical inactivity. Instead of forcing councils to pick up these problems, the Government should shift the balance of funding towards cycling and clean transport solutions at a local level.”


Anna Heslop, clean air lawyer, ClientEarth said: "Road transport is the main contributor to illegal and harmful levels of air pollution in our towns and cities. Tackling this serious public health issue should be at the heart of the Government's Road Investment Strategy."


  • The joint report has been co-ordinated by Campaign for Better Transport with support from the British Horse Society, Campaign for National Parks, ClientEarth, CPRE, Cycling UK, Friends of the Earth, the Heritage Alliance, Living Streets, Noise Abatement  Society, Plantlife, Ramblers, Sustrans, the UK Noise Association, the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, and WWF.
  • The £15 billion Road Investment Strategy (2015-2020) covers the strategic road network in England (motorways and trunk roads outside London).
  • The Department for Transport is currently in the research phase for the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) which will set Highways England’s funding priorities for the period 2020-2025.