Alliance against road building
Road Block e-bulletin * 27 April 2007
Road Block is a network of community groups opposing road schemes and rising road transport CO2 emissions.
Road Block is a project of Transport 2000.
(1) TAKE ACTION
- Government underestimates CO2 impacts of roadbuilding
- Roads costs soaring – government reports show
- Consultation on deadly biofuels – deadline 17 May
- Draft Climate Change Bill – consultation deadline 12 June
- Take action on the Hastings Bypass planning application
(2) CAMPAIGN UPDATES
- Weymouth Relief Road – Dorset Council try to pull a fast-one over government!
- ‘Green’ Cameron backs destructive Kingskerswell Bypass
- Hastings Bypass planning application imminent
- M1 Widening costs soar
- Bucks, Beds councils drop promises of sustainable transport at Linslade Bypass
- Heysham M6 Link Road
- A628 Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass costs double as Public Inquiry starts
- Connecting Derby in public inquiry
- Stockport Bypass (SEMMMS) on hold – valley still safe!
- Shrewsbury North West Relief Road (NWRR) – turning greens against road pricing
- Roads campaigning at summer festivals
Road Block and Transport 2000 have been trying to get the government to reveal the CO2 impacts of their road schemes for almost a year now. The government has used every excuse in the book to keep hold of the data, but finally the results are starting to come through. The government has always maintained that they estimate the road-building programme will ‘only’ add another 100,000 tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere every year. No wonder they have been reluctant to release the actual figures for individual schemes as it looks like the total impact will be much higher than the estimate. Watch this space: Transport 2000 will publishes the results shortly.
The National Audit Office report on roads costs, published on 15 March, highlighted that roads costs are soaring and predicted more increases – between 27 and 31 per cent. On 14 March the government also released the Nichols report on cost estimating of Highways Agency schemes. This report also predicted massive increases, and recommended many measures, including a restructuring of the roads programme. The government is accepting the recommendations, so we will see the same old roads programme packaged in another (no doubt more complicated) way some time soon. Hidden in the back of the Nichols report was the fact that the M1 widening had risen in cost by a massive £1.4 billion (see below). Also, the cost of the A628 Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass in the Peak District National Park has doubled, from £90m at first approval in 2003, to £184m. The minister sneakily approved the massive cost increase (see below).
The government has announced a consultation on its draft Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation. The RTFO will mean that a certain percentage of all fuel must come from biofuels. What’s this got to do with roadbuilding, and aren’t biofuels ‘green’? Well, the government’s transport strategy acknowledges that CO2 emissions are a real problem, but rather than reducing traffic growth, and investing in the alternatives, the government wants to rely on techno-fixes like biofuels. These come with so many environmental and social impacts it is hard to know where to start. Most of the crops are grown in tropical areas, sometimes cleared rainforest. So instead of growing food for themselves, poorer countries will grow crops to keep our cars on the road, with food prices pushed up as a result. It is not even good for climate change either. As the forests are burnt, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into CO2 A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or ten times as much as petroleum produces – so palm oil is ten times worse than petrol! How come it is being presented as the ‘green’ alternative? So the government can claim to be tackling climate change rather than cut its road-building programme. Back to the consultation: you can respond online– the deadline is 17 May. There are more details about biofuels on the Biofuels Watch website and in an excellent George Monbiot article.
The government have published a draft Climate Change Bill which will make it a legal requirement for governments to tackle climate change. The important thing is they are so far refusing to put in legally binding annual targets with penalties if these are not met. Also, the Bill does not include rapidly growing emissions from international aviation or shipping. You can find the Draft Climate Change Bill and background papers online – the deadline for comments is 12 June. Friends of the Earth has created a way for you to tell the Government that the Bill must include aviation and shipping. Go to its website and put your views into the consultation.
Despite receiving 5829 objections, and only 1743 supports for the road (with more objections coming from the local area, than supports) Dorset County Council granted itself planning permission on 5 April. The level of debate was embarrassingly and depressingly poor, with councillors saying things like “I don’t know anything about this CO2 business, all I know is we need this road”.
Despite knowing this is the most controversial scheme in the government’s programme, a tardy Government Office South West (GOSW) did not issue an Article 14 ‘stopping notice’ until 16 April. As soon as Dorset council heard the Article 14 was coming they rushed and signed the legal permissions! This is almost certainly not legal and will not be viewed kindly by government, who already have to decide whether they want to fund a massive cost increase of this scheme. Watch this space about what happens to the dodgy planning permission, and whether the government call it in. Meanwhile, after 15 months of sustained negotiations, government watchdog Natural England has upheld its objection, stating that the scheme will increase congestion in Weymouth, and that alternatives have not been examined, and therefore the scheme is not a justified intrusion into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The bypass is being fought by local group Bypass the Bypass
‘Green’ David Cameron went walk-about in Kingskerswell Devon last week, and in an attempt to get votes said he supported the Kingskerswell Bypass (here’s a newspaper article about it). Despite the fact that the road will increase CO2 by 18 per cent, destroy the habitats of some of the rarest bats in the country and nesting sites of Cirl Buntings (a red-listed bird), go through downland which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and bring more noise and pollution to villages in Kingskerswell. Maybe he should have been better briefed before he shot his mouth off? Although some local developers and the council want the road, most of the villagers realise it will not help their village, and instead want low costs, non-destructive sustainable solutions. Cameron became leader promising “a concerted programme of roadbuilding”. This does not sit comfortably with the ‘green’ image he tries to portray.
The planning application for the Bexhill to Hastings Relief Road will be published next week. It is essential to gather as many objections as possible. Please keep an eye on the Hastings Alliance website and consider sending out alerts to all your friends and family. The scheme would impact on the peaceful valley and SSSI at Combe Haven, and bring more traffic into Hastings and encourage more car based sprawl.
Hidden in the Appendix 12 of the Nichols report was a huge cost increase of the M1 widening. Although the government has approved costs up to £3.7 billion, the report revealed that the latest estimates are £5.1 billion, an increase of £1.4 billion, or 38 per cent – that’s £27 million a mile. Transport 2000 has written to the government, asking them what they are going to do about this huge increase and asking to be consulted when the minister comes to decide it. The Green Party say the money for the widening around Milton Keynes should be transferred to the proposed East West Rail Link which desperately needs funding. The local alliance No Widening M1 hasalso written to MPs and ministers about the costs. Meanwhile, the Camp for Climate Action shut down the offices of Jacksons, the civil engineering company responsible for widening the M1 between junction 21 and 32, on the morning of 26 March. The peaceful protest lasted several hours. There were no arrests and no Jacksons employees got to work. Members of the group explained to the workers their concerns about climate change, while banners were hung across the gates.
Anyone remember the Linslade Bypass protest in January 2005? Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire County Councils are now refusing to deliver a promised cycling and walking bridge that is essential to link communities severed by the road scheme. What a surprise that this is because the road scheme has gone over budget. What a surprise that the first thing to be cut is the sustainable element of the road scheme. Local residents are furious and over 100 villagers demonstrated with the local MP on 21 April to get the council round the negotiating table on this. Watch this space.
The called-in Public Inquiry into the Heysham M6 Link Road begins on 3 July. Transport Solutions for Lancaster & Morecambe (TSLM), the local campaign group, want to thank all those who wrote in to object.If you haven't yet, you still can via TSLM’s website. TSLM, which wants non-road building alternatives, will fight the case in alliance with CPRE, T2000, FoE, Sustrans & NW TAR. The local MP also opposes the scheme. TSLM urgently needs money for expert witnesses and legal representation. Donations would be very welcome. Please post to TSLM, PO Box 146, Morecambe LA4 6WR, or donate online.
The costs of this controversial scheme in the Peak District National Park have just doubled from £90 million, when first approved in 2003, to a staggering £184 million. Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman sneakily approved the huge cost hike in February. Meanwhile the scheme's public inquiry will start in June, with a pre-inquiry meting on 1 May. Save Swallows Wood will be there to oppose it. As will the Peak District National Park Authority who dramatically withdrew their support for the road in March, saying that they were not convinced of the need for the road and that demand management measures should be put in place first.
Another campaign group going through a public inquiry is the Derby HEART group, which is trying to prevent the building of an inner-city, 1960s-style ring road.
Stockport Bypass (SEMMMS) on hold – valley still safe!
The SEMMMS roads appear to have been put on hold on costs grounds. The Stop the Bypass group are working to raise awareness and the status of the beautiful Goyt Valley. The Stop the Bypass annual May Bank Holiday Walk will take place on 7 May with Stockport Friends of the Earth, and it is hoped this year that further progress will be made in getting another part of the area Local Nature Reserve status.
It has become clear that the NWRR is considered by Shropshire County Council to be an essential part of the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) road-pricing bid for Shrewsbury. It was hoped the council would separate out the road from the other elements of the road-pricing package; unfortunately, as the council is insisting the road has to be part of the bid it means that local people will have to oppose the whole TIF bid. However, since there is considerable opposition to congestion charging in the town, this could play into the campaign’s hands. At a recent meeting on TIF organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, a speaker was applauded for saying that "congestion charging is just a device to get the NWRR built"! Also, the local MP has said that if the NWRR is linked to congestion charging he'll have to actively oppose it. Meanwhile, the No Way! local group had hoped to put their case against the NWRR direct to Stephen Ladyman but his visit to Shrewsbury has been postponed.
There is space for roads campaigns to go to summer festivals, but more help is needed. Email Julie White if you would like to go to Sunrise Celebration, 31 May until 4 June near Glastonbury, or Northern Green Gathering in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, 9-12 August.