Alliance against road building

Road Block e-bulletin * 20 December 2006

It has been an eventful year for road campaigns. One of the best successes of 2006 was the dropping of the 51 mile M6 Expressway - a brand new parallel tolled motorway snaking through the Cheshire and Staffordshire countryside. Well done to the GAME group, who are now also fighting the proposed widening as well. Another great victory was for Norfolk campaigners who successfully argued for cheaper safety measures on the A47 Acle Straight, rather than a new road in the Norfolk Broads National Park.

Unfortunately they government are still ploughing on with many other road schemes, waving the bulldozers in at High Low Newton Bypass in the Lake District and the Tunstall Bypass in Stoke to name just two. Every single road that experienced cost escalation has had its cost increase approved. The new regional funding structure created much confusion with, unfortunately, most of the money spent on roads rather than public transport.

Climate change rose even higher up the political agenda with the publication of the Stern report and from now on all road schemes coming forward must have the cost of the CO2 emissions factored into the cost benefit analysis. The Eddington report emphasised climate change yet concluded that even when this was costed in, it was still in the economic interests to build more roads and expand airports.

Next year will see a rewriting of much transport policy in the light of Eddington, a new Climate Change Bill (thanks to excellent campaigning from Friends of the Earth) and a Planning Bill (see below). One thing is certain, things aren't going to be quiet... and Road Block will certainly make sure it isn't!

There will not be an e-bulletin in January, but the Road Block bulletin will return in February. Road Block wishes you a happy Christmas and a wonderful low-carbon 2007!




(1) Transport and climate news:




Eddington Study - what the media didn't tell you...

The long awaited study of long term future transport strategy by Sir Rod Eddington (ex CEO of British Airways) was finally pu blished with much media attention on 1 Dec. It was very mixed on roadbuilding. Although the media attention focused on his support for a ten-year off road pricing scheme and that he did not recommend a major new road building programme, he did actually adopt a 'business as usual' approach for roadbuilding up to 2016. He accepted the current level of roadbuilding, but then said after 2016, when a national road pricing scheme might be in place, this could "significantly reduce, but not completely eliminate" additional roadbuilding by "some 80 per cent". Most worrying was that for the first time he and his Treasury team had attempted to put a price on environmental impacts (noise, precious landscapes, CO2 etc), although it is unclear how they did this (what price tag would you put on a nature reserve?). They concluded that "Even after accounting for environmental effects, there appears to be a good case for adding strategic road infrastructure over and above the schemes in the TPI (Highways Agency roads programme)". In the ten years between now and the implementation of a national road pricing scheme, Eddington argues that measures other than roadbuilding might be necessary to solve congestion, and save money: "e ven with a firm timeframe for the introduction of road pricing, it is likely to take several years. In the meantime there are costs to the economy from road congestion and other pressures. This may therefore point to considering the case for implementing variable capacity options that are cheaper and faster to deliver than fixed infrastructure, reducing the risk of unnecessary investment". Road Block argued that this was good reason to cancel the roads programme and put it under review:
To see Road Block's briefing on Eddington, go to

Pre-Budget Report

The Pre-Budget Report (PBR) was announced on 6 Dec. The Chancellor did not reinstate the fuel duty escalator which would raise fuel duty a little above the rate of inflation each year. Instead he added a paltry 1.25p onto the price of fuel which would raise an estimated £650 million a year for the Treasury but is unlikely to persuade people not to use their cars unnecessarily. Fuel duty has not risen inline with inflation for years since the fuel protests. This has kept motoring artificially low, has lost the country £billions in lost revenue, and this new increase does not make up for this. However the political significance of this gesture should not be lost, as this is the first departure away from the demands of the powerful motorist's lobby for years. The Chancellor also did not raise VED on gas-guzzling cars, but did raise Air Passenger Duty back up to 1997 levels.

All change to the planning system

The Treasury also asked Eddington to look at the planning system, whilst also commissioning Kate Barker to tell them how to speed up the planning system so that it benefits business better. Both Eddington and Barker came to identical conclusions that central government would set Statements of Strategic Objectives for Major Infrastructure Projects. The government would of course 'consult' on these Statements, but would write them themselves and they would over ride all other government policies (on climate for instance). The government would then set up a crony-stuffed 'Independent' Planning Commission (IPC) which would decide on schemes. However the IPC would be constrained by a statutory requirement to have a 'presumption in favour' of passing the schemes! And they could only reject schemes if they did not fit with the Statements of Strategic Objectives... that the government have set! All sound a bit fixed? You bet! The Chancellor and the planning minister Ruth Kelly have asked for comments before the Planning Bill is published next year - watch the Road Block Take Action pages on how to respond -

National Audit Office inquiry into roads costs

The long awaited National Audit Office inquiry into the escalating cost of road schemes will report in the New Year. Please keep a look out for it on the Press Releases section of the Road Block website - ../pressreleases.html

Welsh Transport Strategy

The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) published the Welsh Transport Strategy earlier in the year which contained proposals for many roads including the controversial M4 Relief Road round Newport and through the SSSI Gwent Levels. The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Strategy was very critical, but had a very limited consultation period that Friends of the Earth have successfully challenged.

Scottish Transport Strategy

The Scottish Executive published their National Transport Strategy on 5 December. It contained a strong commitment to road pricing, but did not commit to reducing traffic or scrapping the M74 Extension through Glasgow or the Aberdeen Western Bypass.

Conservatives backing road building

The Conservative Party have been undoing all their rhetoric on climate change by backing more roadbuilding recently. In a letter to a Road Block supporter, David Cameron's office wrote: "We do need to build more roads. Britain now needs a concerted programme of road building, accompanied by the introduction of advanced traffic management methods, including new solutions for road charging based on usage and the time of day". In their response to the Eddington study, Getting Around, the Conservatives also accused the government of "making the mistake of scrapping Conservative plans for road improvements" when Labour first came to power, adding "we will need to increase the capacity of our road network, and in some places build new roads". Also, at the Green Alliance annual debate, in response to a question about the Newbury Bypass, David Cameron said that (contrary to all the evidence) the bypass was a great success (see story below). David Cameron also backed roadbuilding in his acceptance speech as leader of the Conservative Party: "I want to build more roads... we need a concerted programme of road building". Meanwhile John "Odd" Redwood who is chairing the Competitiveness Commission for the party, has been making repeated calls for more roadbuilding: "People have to remember... that road capacity in the right places is a green policy," (Financial Times, 14 September 06). Whilst welcoming the Conservative Party recognising the importance of climate change, we must also remember the green noises Labour made when they needed our votes to come to power, and look where that got us! If you would like to write to the Conservatives about roadbuilding, traffic growth and CO2 you can write here:

Climate change speaker training

Are you concerned about climate change? Would you like to gain speaker skills and influence others to take action? Talk Action and COIN (Climate Outreach Information Network) are organising a Climate Change Speakers Training Day on 1 Feb 2007, in London, from 10am to 4pm. Please see or contact for details.

Activist Legal Project

The Activists' Legal Project provides advice and information to activists involved in social and environmental campaigning and protest. The ALP website has just been relaunched with revised and updated guides to your rights and the legal consequences of protest, nonviolent direct action, and much more.




Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster) - ACTION
The controversial Heysham to M6 Link road has been passed to the Government Office North West ( GONW) to decide on a call in for an independent public inquiry. GONW has received "several hundreds" of letters, but has not yet made a decision. M any thanks to those who sent emails. If you haven't, there's still time. Please email GONW and demand that it calls the scheme in for an independent public inquiry. And copy to Ruth Kelly, Douglas Alexander and Geraldine Smith MP. You can do so easily from the Road Block website here: . Meanwhile, at a recent showing of Al Gore's film “An Inconvenient Truth”, the leader of Lancaster City Council, agreed that climate change was a serious threat and that the City Council was committed to intervene to address the problem and reduce the scale of the threat. At the same time he repeated his support for the Heysham M6 Link. See

Weymouth Relief Road (Dorset)

In the three week objection period Dorset County Council received over 4000 objections to the new planning application (see RB bulletin 30 Nov 06)! The local newspaper tried to blame the large response on Road Block, but the vast majority of the objections came locally. Also, crucially, Natural England (the national environmental watchdog) maintained their objection to the scheme. Their objection is that the road scheme is not a justified intrusion into the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as the road would actually increase congestion and traffic in Weymouth. The new design would actually mean more damage to the AONB as there would be a new junction in the lovely Bincombe Valley. Most of the route remains unchanged, going through Southdown Ridge in the Area of Local Landscape Interest, the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve and Ancient Woodland in Two Mile Coppice in the Lorton Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Newbury Bypass (Berkshire)

A fourth report has come out which concluded that traffic is as bad, if not worse, in Newbury since the infamous bypass. The latest report is by Trafficmaster, which concluded that the congestion on the A339 is the third worse in the country! We don't like to say we told you so, but....
The first report which found the high traffic growth, and showed how Newbury hadn't benefited from the bypass, was in 2004 by Atkins for West Berkshire Council. The second and third reports used Highways Agency one and five year evaluation studies and were produced for CPRE and the government's Countryside Agency in 2006. The congestion in town was always mostly local traffic and the bypass has made no difference to congestion, in fact causing traffic to rise. Accidents have also increased.

Harlow North (Hertfordshire)

Planning Minister Ruth Kelly has responded to the East of England Panel Report into the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), and has unfortunately over turned the Panel's recommendation to reject the massive 10,000 housing development north of Harlow. "The value of the whole Examination in Public process has been entirely undermined" said Nigel Clark Secretary STOP Harlow North. The housing plans include a proposal for a controversial northern bypass to create a car dependent area. See

Norwich Northern Distributor Road (Norfolk)

Ruth Kelly also rejected the Panel's proposal that traffic should be reduced, but instead proposes to reduce the rate of traffic growth! She accepted that wish lists of road schemes that the East Regional Assembly had proposed should not be included in the Plan. This undermines the Norwich Northern Distributor Road which Norfolk County Council hoped to see listed in the 30 year Plan. See

A14 Fen Ditton – Ellington (Cambridgeshire)

The Highways Agency are now re-consulting on three different route options (of course there is no 'no road' option) after the successful High Court challenge by local residents (see RB bulletin 31 Oct 06). The costs of the scheme have gone up from £490 million to £6-700 million, depending on the route chosen! Local residents are investigating whether the most expensive (but least environmentally damaging, going through a landfill site) route has been costed correctly. See

Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (Sussex)

East Sussex County Council report that the planning application for the scheme has been delayed for a second time. Originally scheduled for May 06, it is now expected to be submitted in ‘Spring’ 07. Costs are rising in any case, but the delay is bound to lead to further rises. Of course this at least means a further breeding season in the threatened Combe Haven valley, much of which is made up of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and gives an extended opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of a very special and beautiful place. The coalition of local environmental and community groups which make up the Hastings Alliance are fighting hard to stop the hugely environmentally damaging scheme from going ahead, and are about to publish a report that shows that alternatives to the road have not been properly investigated. With much of the valley flooded at this time of year, there’s nowhere more beautiful for a winter walk (with care, and wellies) if you’re in the area. (OS Explorer sheet 124 ‘Hastings and Bexhill’). See

M6 widening (Birmingham to Manchester)
A group of students from Stafford College have produced an excellent and inspiring video for the campaign here: . Meanwhile the Highways Agency are busy preparing the Business Case for widening, which should go to ministers to decide in February. See

Southend Priory Crescent (Essex)

Protestors at Southend on Sea's " Camp Bling" mark 15 months of successful occupation on the route of the A127/A1159 proposed road widening this Saturday 23rd December. Numerous events are planned at the protest camp over the holiday period including a solstice celebration, and festive activities. Check out the 'events' page at and visit the camp if you can!

Brownhills Eastern Bypass (Walsall)

Walsall Council have advised local group SCAR that they are presently researching and determining an alternative alignment of the route and hope to have outline details early in 2007. SCAR Group are anxiously awaiting this announcement before deciding what action will be required. See

SEMMMS, Stockport Relief Road

At over £60 million per mile under Private Finance Initiative it looks as though the SEMMMS roads can't possibly go ahead. It remains to be seen whether Stockport Council will stop paying out vast sums to consultants for this doomed road - transport consultants alone were paid £1,389,355 in 2005/6 and up to October this year had received £255,437. Councillors state privately that this road can not go ahead and have done for some time. How they can continue to condone this appalling waste of taxpayers' money on consultants remains a mystery? The road will damage the beautiful Goyt Valley. See

Kingskerswell Bypass (Devon)

Local Torbay Conservative Party Candidate, Marcus Wood has posted comments on his internet blog stating his view that the answer to solving the Torbay housing crisis is to develop Kingskerswell! He wrote: "The answer to me is obvious. The Kingskerswell bypass, if given the go-ahead, will throw up parcels of unviable agricultural land all round it which could easily provide the escape-valve for pressure for building land; in addition to the brownfield sites we already know about". This is exactly what the campaign have suspected all along, and here is the proof!


* Ask for a full public inquiry into the Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster) - for more info see news item above. To send email see

* Tell the Transport Minister to scrap the roads programme. Road Block has printed 1000s of postcards to send to Douglas Alexander telling him that roadbuilding fuels climate change. You can either download the cards from our website here - - or you can email us to saying how many you would like (send us a donation later to cover the postage), or send us an SAE telling us how many you would like. Write to us at: Road Block, 12-18 Hoxton St, LONDON, N1 6NG.

* Sign the Downing Street online petition against roadbuilding - " We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to scrap the £12 billion road building programme and invest the money in public transport and making cycling and walking more attractive, to reduce CO2". Currently we are the 85th petition on the website - I am sure we can do better than that! Sign up here -

* Email David Cameron about the Conservatives supporting roadbuilding -

* Keep government open - defend the Freedom of Information Act. Journalists and groups like Road Block and many local groups find the FOI Act essential for getting hidden information from government, councils and quangos. The government is proposing to limit the time spent on answering FOI requests, and the number of requests anyone can put in. Sign the petition here: