Alliance against road building

Road Block e-bulletin * 28 Feb 2007


Road Block is proud to be part of the sustainable transport body Transport 2000 as from 1 January 2007. Road Block will still operate as the network of local community groups but as a project of Transport 2000. All the community groups remain independent, as they always have done. The merger means that Road Block will become much more effective within such a respected and dynamic organisation. Transport 2000 has a great reputation for effectively putting the arguments for alternatives to road transport.



(1) Take action!


(2) Transport and climate news  

* Road pricing - good or bad? It depends!

* Help make traffic reduction in the East of England a reality

* Traffic pollution damages children's lungs, research shows

* Newbury has third worst congestion in Britain!

* Roads costs go through the roof


(3) Campaign updates   

* Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass) - public inquiry granted!

* Object to the Mottram Tintwistle Bypass!

* Weymouth Relief Road - third planning application, over 5000 objections!

* Bexhill to Hastings Link Road - doubles in cost!

* Norwich Northern Distributor Road criticised by government advisor

* A494 Queensferry 'bypass', Wales - 7 lane super highway?  No way!

* Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route - unwanted!

* Harlow North - act now to reject the housing and road plans

* Thames Gateway Bridge, London - calls for inquiry to be re-opened

* M3 through Hill of Tara - Ireland's 'Twyford Down'

* A14 Fen Ditton to Ellington route consultation

* Rotherwas Access Road: Council ignores strong public opposition

* Actress Prunella Scales says Kingskerswell Bypass is 'fawlty'

* Durham Northern Relief Road  

* M11 widening: "climate double whammy"

* Via Baltica route, Poland

* No Widening M1

* Local residents demonstrate against Southend Priory Park scheme

* Titnore Woods protest camp still there!




- Visit the Roadblock website


** Demonstration against the M3 through the Hill of Tara in Ireland - Irish Embassy, London, 3 March - see below

** Object to the draft orders for the A628 Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass in the Peaks National Park

** Respond to the A14 preferred route consultation - see below

** Prevent the East of England Plan being watered down on traffic reduction

** Ask the government to throw out the Harlow North plan out the East of England Plan

** 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". Sign up here

** Sign the Downing Street online petition supporting road pricing if the money goes to public transport




Road pricing - good or bad?


It's been a busy few weeks for Road Block and Transport 2000 due to the furore around the road pricing petition. Road pricing could be good for the environment if the objective was to tackle rising traffic and CO2 levels, and the government committed to putting the money back into public transport. However the government insist the objective of road pricing will only be to tackle congestion (which means shifting traffic around, and could lead to increased traffic growth) and refuse to say where the money will go. A BBC poll showed that 74% of the 1060 polled did not support road pricing, but when asked whether they would support it if the money went back into public transport, 55% said they would back it. The petition and the emails pushing it contained many inaccuracies, as you can read in a Transport 2000 and Friends of the Earth briefing. If you want to sign a petition supporting sustainable transport, there are many including Yes to road pricing and Road charging 


Help make traffic reduction in the East of England a reality


The government is set to reject some of the brilliant recommendations of the East of England independent panel who examined the regional plan. Please respond to the consultation by 9 March. The East of England regional plan is the first one to go before the government and so it is very important it is not watered down. Remember, a plan like this is coming to your region soon so this consultation provides a unique opportunity to set a precedent for what the Secretary of State can expect when she fails to accept necessarily radical aims for regional transport policy in the context of climate change. In June 2006 the Panel recommended that reducing traffic growth and CO2 should be at the heart of the region's plans (see RB bulletin 26 June 06). However minister Ruth Kelly has rejected this as "unrealistic" and wants to water it down. Please respond online. It’s simple and takes just 1 minute, but please do so before 9 March as the consultation closes then. 


Traffic pollution damages children's lungs, research shows


Research published in the Lancet medical magazine shows that exposure to traffic pollution stunts children's lung development. Researchers at the University of Southern California examined the lung function of 3,677 children in 12 areas over an eight year period. Those who had lived within 500 metres of a motorway had much poorer lung function at the age of 18 than those who had lived 1,500 meters away or more, even when factors such as smoking in the home were taken into account. However despite this evidence, the DfT wants to widen the M1, M25, M62, M11 (see below) and M6, whilst the Scottish Executive want to extend the M74 into Glasgow, and the Welsh Assembly Government want to drive a new M4 across the Gwent Levels near Newport. They are clearly mad and have to be stopped! The issues could not be more serious.


Newbury has third worst congestion in Britain!


Yet another report has come out that has concluded that the Newbury Bypass was a total failure, making this now the fourth report to come to this conclusion! The latest report was by Trafficmaster who look at national congestion levels. They examined term-time traffic and found that Newbury had the third worst school-related congestion in the country. Opponents of the bypass in the 1990s argued strongly that congestion was caused principally by local traffic and that the bypass would make little difference to the town whereas improvements to public transport would.

For more information, see the BBC online. 


Roads costs go through the roof


Expect the enormous cost of roads to hit the news soon with the imminent publication of two important reports. The first is a DfT commissioned report by ex-DfT official Mike Nichols, looking only at rising costs of Highways Agency schemes. Ahead of the report's publication, the Head of Procurement at the HA has left whilst just last week the Head of Major Projects was given the push! The second report will be the conclusions of the National Audit Office one year investigation into rising costs of HA projects, but also local authority road schemes. This will be looking at ways that cost increases are managed, so expect the DfT to come in for criticism too. Roads Block has been investigating and highlighting rising roads costs, discovering that the DfT will approve the schemes at a lower price, then the true costs are revealed as the scheme goes through the planning process but by that time the political momentum builds, and ministers have never rejected a scheme because of increased costs, whilst cancelling many tram schemes for this reason. Road Block has created a new page on its website highlighting this issue. Just recently the A14 scheme has increased from £490m to £617-714m (depending on route choice). Whilst the A120 Braintree to Marks Tey scheme has leapt up another £50 million from £320 to £370m.



Heysham to M6 Link (Lancaster Northern Bypass) - public inquiry granted!


The inspiring and very effective Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecombe (TSLM) group scored an important victory on 9 Feb 07 as the government agreed to 'call-in' the planning application for a full independent public inquiry. Call-ins are very rare nowadays so this was a very significant turn of events and bodes well for the government's decision on funding for the £137 million scheme, which the DfT have sat on for over 18 months! Lancaster County Council admit the road will release an extra 24,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere every year, one of the worst schemes in the country. Meanwhile documents obtained through Freedom of Information reveal that the original claim that the road would generate 6014 new jobs have been exaggerated by 70 pre cent! The council now claim that the road would only bring 1822 jobs, which TSLM claim is still exaggerated. A parliamentary answer from the Department of Trade and Industry has revealed that the government is considering paying a £45,000 contribution to the council for a study into integrated transport for the district. TSLM argue that the study should be done first, then the council should examine whether a road is still needed. 


Object to the Mottram Tintwistle Bypass!


The Highways Agency have had to re-issue the draft orders and Environmental Statement for the Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass in the Peak District National Park as they had previously messed up the traffic modelling. The new ES shows the road will increase traffic volumes through the Peak District National Park by 40%, and will increase CO2 emissions by 9%. You have until 30 March to object, but please do it now, and forward this onto friends. You can help. Please object online -- it takes only 1 minute. This road trashes the National Park and a woodland nature reserve, whilst sustainable alternatives exist. 


Weymouth Relief Road - third planning application, over 5000 objections and local group formed!


Things are not looking good for the Weymouth Relief Road as over 5000 people objected to Dorset County Council's third planning application. During the second planning application over 4000 objected with 350 of them from the local area (see RB bulletin 20 Dec 06). The road only attracted 180 supports. The local Dorset Echo newspaper is so biased it ran a story saying "76% of bypass objectors from outside area", rather than "almost double local people object to the road than support it". The council, when it realised the numbers against the scheme, declared the second application void and opened it up again. This enabled the local MP to rustle up more supports to the road so that it may now be a close run thing. Local people fed up with how the local media and MP distort the facts about the road are mobilising and have formed the Bypass the Bypass group, which will formally launch on 2 March. The planning application will be decided (by Dorset council themselves!) in April. It is expected that the government will then 'call-in' the application for a full inquiry due to the huge environmental impact of the scheme, and the objection in principle to the scheme of the government's statutory environmental watchdog Natural England. The road is the most destructive in the roads programme, going through the stunning Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Thomas Hardy's Ridgeway, a nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and ancient woodland owned by the Woodland Trust. 


Bexhill to Hastings Link Road - doubles in cost!


East Sussex County Council have admitted that the cost of the dreadful Hastings road scheme has almost doubled up to £89 million, just 2 and half years after being first approved at £47 million. The government originally provisionally approved the scheme in Dec 2004 conditional on the scheme costs not going up. An alliance of groups, including the Hastings Alliance, has written to the DfT asking for funding to be removed from the scheme. Meanwhile a top transport consultant and government adviser, Dr Denvil Coombe, has written a report about the scheme which concludes that non-road alternatives were never examined by the council or the government - see the Transport 200 press release. This concern is shared by many groups opposing road schemes, in particular the Weymouth Relief Road. 


Norwich Northern Distributor Road criticised by government advisor


Dr Denvil Coombe also wrote a report about the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR) which concluded that case for the road "has not been proven in a satisfactorily objective manner". Dr Coombe said that an assessment of different transport options seems to have been written with the main aim of proving that the NNDR is required! Norfolk County Council wants to build the £100 million road to accommodate massive growth in north Norwich and beyond. Environmental groups say that the NNDR would result in substantial extra traffic. The council is attempting to get funding for the road by sneaking it into its Transport Innovation Fund road pricing bid - just like Durham and Shrewsbury. The No N25 campaign will make sure this road will not be built. 


A494 Queensferry 'bypass', Wales - 7 lane super highway? No way!


The Welsh Assembly Government want to build a 7-lane highway to allow more lorries bound for Ireland to speed past local communities. But they hadn't banked on the spirited resistance of the 'Coalition Committee' and other local groups, who have even penned their own protest song! This area already has the highest recorded rate for pollution in Wales and as the local residents say: "We will not sit back and allow the demands of big business and the fleets of trans-europe trucks speeding to catch the next Irish ferry to have precedence over the needs and wishes of local residents". Letters, email, phone calls and invitations to visit to the politicians go unanswered. And when WAG held an exhibition in January the Coalition Committee held their own alternative exhibition which was really well attended by Assembly politicians, councillors & media. Resistance is building and WAG will find it hard to build this scheme over the wishes of local people: see local group website  and BBC forum .  


Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route - unwanted!


Local campaigners sent out an unequivocal message: people don't want the £400 million Aberdeen Bypass. Well over 5000 objections were lodged against the draft road orders for the bypass, which would run to the west of Aberdeen. This huge response makes the bypass one of the most unpopular and controversial roads proposals in Scotland's history. Congratulations to the local Road Sense group  for working so hard to mobilise the opposition. Local groups and many national conservation and environmental charities are worried the bypass will results in more traffic and more greenhouse gas emissions and will harm communities, landscapes and biodiversity. Meanwhile Road Sense published a Human Impact Survey to show the impact of their plans on local people.  


Harlow North - act now to reject the housing and road plans


Stop Harlow North are fighting a massive 20,000 housing development and road plan. They persuaded an independent planning panel to reject the plans at a hearing into the East of England regional plan. However the government propose to over turn the panel's recommendations, and give the go-ahead. So much for democracy! You have until 9 March to respond to the public consultation on the draft East of England Plan. You can help:  Complete the form on the Stop Harlow North website.  


Thames Gateway Bridge, London - calls for inquiry to be re-opened


Local campaign groups, Bexley Council, John Austin MP and Friends of the Earth are calling for the re-opening of the public inquiry into the Thames Gateway Bridge (TGB) motorway as new evidence has come to light. Transport for London (TfL) failed to mention at the year long inquiry that tolls would be increased on the Dartford Tunnel (meaning traffic will re-route), tolls are being considered on the Blackwall Tunnel, that TfL are now considering congestion charging in Greenwich and there are plans to widen nearby Knee Hill. It is imperative that TfL re-model their traffic figures since evidence presented to the TGB Inquiry assumed there would be no toll or congestion charge at Blackwall Tunnel, no increase in tolls at the Dartford Crossing and no widening of Knee Hill. Does anyone believe that TfL knew nothing about these schemes yet failed to bring them to the attention of the Inspector? Other evidence includes the Stern Review, a new incinerator, the whole of Bexley being made an Air Quality Management Area and new reports on the detrimental affects of pollution from vehicles. The Leader of Bexley Council, Cllr Ian Clement, has written to minister Ruth Kelly urging her to reconvene the inquiry into the Thames Gateway Bridge in light of reports of a new toll charge for the Blackwall Tunnel: "We are fundamentally opposed to the imposition of tolls on the Blackwall Tunnel, which would change all of the traffic forecasts, the economic appraisal, the environmental assessment and the business case for the bridge."  Local campaigners from Action Group Against the Bridge (AGAB) are waiting with baited breath to see what the government decide to do.


M3 through Hill of Tara - Ireland's 'Twyford Down'


The Irish government want to push the M3 motorway through the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland and one of the most archaeologically and culturally significant sites in the world. This sounds very similar to the M3 motorway pushed through Twyford Down at Winchester, the ancient capital of England in 1993 which sparked the huge 1990's roads protests. High Court legal challenges have failed to stop the plan, and a contract could be awarded soon. To this end a demonstration is planned outside the Irish Embassy in London on Saturday 3 March, to quietly bear witness. The embassy is at 17 Grosvenor Place, south of Hyde Park Corner Tube. The demonstration will begin at 1pm. The Hill of Tara is considered by many to be the birthplace of Celtic culture. The road will pass 1km away from the fort itself, with a wide interchange where it cuts through the hill and passing through the rich archaeological landscape of the Tara/Skryne Valley. The respected World Monuments Watch group is currently considering including the site in a list of the world’s 100 most endangered places. Earlier this year, reckless preparatory work on the route saw one safety inspector critically ill after he was hit by a falling tree, and there was no archaeologist present during the clearance, which included heavy diggers churning up the ground. Afterwards, fragments of bones were found scattered over the site. There is still hope to save this precious place from development if enough people raise their voices now. For more information, see the Hill of Tara website and watch a short video: 


A14 Fen Ditton to Ellington route consultation


The Highways Agency is currently reconsulting on route choices for the monster £640 million A14 scheme near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. They have been forced to reconsult after local resident Nita Tinn won her Judicial Review of the appalling way the HA had 'consulted' previously (see RB bulletin 31 Oct 06). On offer are three equally appalling routes which will bring more noise and pollution to rural communities, and the costs of the scheme have now leapt up from £490 million to £617-714 million. The problem is HGVs coming from Felixstowe port on their way to the Midlands. However if the government were more committed to investing in rail freight a lot of those lorries could disappear with the containers taken by rail instead. It is estimated that the urgently needed parallel rail freight upgrade would cost half the price of this monster road scheme, would provide more reliable journey times, and would help the government reach its climate change targets. Rail freight produces four to ten times less CO2 depending on the weight of the load - see Transport 2000's Freight on Rail campaign . This road scheme is the epitome of unsustainable development. Local residents groups and parish councils are gathering in opposition to the scheme, and the HA will have a real battle on their hands pushing it through. You can respond to the route consultation by emailing the department, saying "no road, invest in rail instead". Background info is available on the Highways Agency website or visit the Offords A14 Action Group. 


Rotherwas Access Road: Council ignores strong public opposition


Efforts to oppose the Rotherwas Access Road in Herefordshire heated up earlier this month when an unprecedented number of concerned locals showed up at a county council meeting. The campaigners - 60 of them - wanted to voice their concerns about a proposed housing development which the council itself has said it wishes to approve in order to fund the access road. This is despite an independent planning inspector turning down the housing on the grounds that it would be in the wrong place and would spoil the countryside. The concerned campaigners were not allowed to voice their concerns and the council meeting was suspended while the police came and removed some of them. In the end, the council approved the housing development. But the campaigners are not ready to give up the fight yet. They are now seeking advice on a legal challenge to the processes the Council has followed. More about the proposals and campaign effort can be found on the web: 


Actress Prunella Scales says Kingskerswell Bypass is 'fawlty'


Fawlty Towers star Prunella Scales has lent her support to the campaign against the Kingskerswell Bypass in beautiful rural Devon. Former CPRE President Prunella said "I support the Kingskerswell Alliance with all my heart in their efforts to save Kerswell Downs and the beautiful countryside along the valley". The road would split the village in half, trash the tranquillity of Kerswell Down, and go through the habitat of numerous bats, including the extremely rare Lesser Horseshoe. The Kingskerswell Alliance have enlisted a local film club to help them make an excellent short film of the low cost alternatives that exist to the destructive bypass. The 7-minute DVD has been sent to minister Gillian Merron. You can view it online.  


Durham Northern Relief Road


Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Alistair Carmichael went to Durham to support the Save Our Valley for the City Campaign against the Durham Northern Relief Road. He said: "There is nothing innovative about building a road in a place like this. In terms of how much congestion the City of Durham has, it would be taking a sledge hammer to a nut." Meanwhile councillors having been making statements that "a road will be built", when the government funded Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) studies haven't even concluded yet. Durham County Council want to sneak in this destructive road scheme into their road charging plans in order to gain government funding for an old dud road.


M11 widening: "climate double whammy"


On 27 February the transport minister announced intentions to progress plans for yet more motorway widening, this time around Stansted Airport - creating a double whammy for climate change. The widening between junctions 6-8 will cost the taxpayer £698 million, and will allow for more car based sprawl in this already over stretched part of the country, and assist the climate damaging expansion of Stansted Airport. Details on how to respond will be in the next RB bulletin.


Via Baltica route, Poland


On 12 February, campaigners braved sub-zero temperatures to begin their camp in the Rospuda Valley, Poland, in an attempt to stop a major road scheme. The Polish Government has approved eight proposed road developments running through the Augustow and Knyszyn Primeval Forests and the Biebrza Marshes National Park, severely damaging important, and protected, natural sites. The campers are joined in their protest by the European Commission, which has started legal infringement procedures against the Polish Government, as the whole area is a Special Protected Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive and Sites of Community Interest (SCI) under the Habitats Directive – Europe’s strongest laws for the protection of natural environments. Follow the story online. 


No Widening M1


Work has started on widening junctions 31-32 just south of Sheffield, and continues on junction 6a-10 near Luton. However No Widening M1 are still campaigning hard to stop the rest of the plans from junctions 10-13, and 21-42 by gaining media coverage by linking the widening plans with the recent Lancet report (see above) showing how traffic pollution damages children's lung development.  


Local residents demonstrate against Southend Priory Park scheme


On 22 Feb about 250 local residents protested about Southend Borough Council's plans to push a £25 million road through Priory Park. The government have to make a decision on whether to grant the funding as the costs have gone up massively from £3.5m at first approval in 2000. This scheme has experienced the biggest cost escalation of all the road schemes approved by the government, yet they still haven't rejected it 2 years later. Local residents have established a protest camp - Camp Bling - at the site of an East Saxon king's burial mound which would be trashed for the road. The camp has been in place for a year and half now and would welcome visitors. Call Camp Bling on 07866 967601 and see Save Priory Park website. 


Titnore Woods protest camp still there!


The protest camp at Titnore Woods is now nine months old, and still there, despite having a High Court eviction order hanging over them. The camp is protecting ancient woodland from a massive housing and supermarket development. The road widening plans seem to have been dropped - for now. See the Protect Our Woodland (POW!) website.