Alliance against road building
Road Block e-bulletin * 27 June 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.
It has been a very busy couple of months for roads campaigning with some real highs, but also some real lows. Firstly the great news: the Government has actually turned down a road scheme! Yes, you read that correctly. Funding was refused for the £860m SEMMMS Stockport Bypass and Manchester Airport Link Road saving the Goyt Valley - see story below . Also Southend Borough Council, with the DfT, have scaled down the controversial Priory Crescent scheme so that it will not go through the Anglo-Saxon burial mound - see story below. However, the bad news is the government refused to call an independent public inquiry into the highly controversial Weymouth Relief Road - more below. Also statistics released by the Department for Transport show that in the first quarter of 2007 road traffic went up by 1.2% compared to last year.
1. Take Action
Over a quarter of Europe’s carbon emissions come from transport, the majority of these from cars. Car makers have failed to deliver on their own targets on emissions and now the European Commission is proposing legally binding targets. The car industry is fighting hard to avoid these mandatory targets but these targets must be tough enough if they are going to have an impact on climate change. The commission is asking for your opinion so tell them that you want tough mandatory and long-term targets that will significantly reduce the impact of the car on our climate. Take action before 30th June – the consultation is online at http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/transport/press_for_change/cars_consultation/index.html.
The government's Planning White Paper published on 21 May contains some disastrous proposals for groups opposing road schemes. As if the current system is not unfair enough, the Government also proposes to hand over decision-making powers to an 'independent' planning commission (which they will appoint) that will have a 'presumption in favour' of passing schemes that conform to new Government-decided national policy statements. You would no longer be able to question the need or economic justification for a scheme, and you may not even have the right to appear at the inquiry! For local road schemes, the Government proposes to leave all decision making to local authorities, and reduce the amount of call-ins, where the Government calls a public inquiry. This would mean that local councils apply to themselves and grant their own planning permissions with no public inquiry! It is an absolute disaster, but fortunately several national groups have formed a Planning Coalition Group to campaign against the proposals.
The coalition want as many people as possible to send in comments, to the Dept for Communities and Local Government, by 17 August. The coalition is organising a fortnight of action from 30 June to 14 July, with a day of action by local groups on Saturday 14 July. Please consider organising an demonstration on that day. The coalition’s Planning Disaster website (http://www.planningdisaster.co.uk/) is being updated to include an email to send to the Government. In the meantime you can send a letter or download a resource pack from the Friends of the Earth website. FoE is also producing a printed copy and postcards for giving out to members of the public at stalls – email Owen Espley if you’d like some.
Transport 2000 release new research on low-carbon transport solutions
Research by MTRU for Transport 2000 has challenged the findings of the Stern report that carbon emissions from transport are more expensive to tackle than other sectors. The Government has been using this claim as an excuse for allowing transport carbon emissions to rise - including through creating traffic growth through road building. It shows that we have to tackle transport CO2 as we cannot rely on other sectors of the economy to make those cuts when they already have ambitious targets. It also reveals that to change travel behaviour will be more equitable also, and has other benefits such as improving air quality. The research and a summary are available on the Transport 2000 website.
"Smarter Choices" work!
The three year results are out for the three Sustainable Travel Towns and they show that "Smarter Choices" measures have had an enormous impact on reducing car trips, and encouraging public transport use and cycling and walking. The three projects at Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester mainly involved nothing more than simply telling people about public transport options, starting car share schemes and encouraging people to walk and cycle more. The first three year results show that:
* Darlington - public transport trips up 14%, walking up 29%, cycling up 79%. Car trips were down 11%
* Peterborough - public transport up 13%, walking up 21%, cycling up 25%. Car trips were down 13%
* Worcester - public transport up 22%, walking up 17%, cycling up 36%. Car trips were down 12%
This is better than any road scheme could do to cut congestion, and cuts CO2 and is healthier too! And it is a fraction of the price. Now why is all that money being poured into roadbuilding...? See the Government press release
Government to rethink the rules for deciding road schemes
The Government's methodology for deciding road projects (the New Approach To Appraisal - NATA) is now almost 10 years old and is being rewritten. Currently it is very biased towards making a road look economically good, whilst down-playing the environmental costs. There will be a consultation in the Autumn. Transport 2000 will be getting in there to influence the new guidance to value the environment higher.
Lush, the ethical cosmetics company, has launched a new product called the Charity Pot which is a gorgeous hand and body lotion. All the money raised from it goes to good causes. Already Lush has donated money to Road Block, Transport 2000, and over 20 community groups opposing road schemes and airport expansion. The Charity Pot makes a lovely present, so get down to your local Lush store and know that every penny is going to good projects! See www.lush.co.uk. To apply for funding from the Charity Pot fund, email
The government dramatically served an Article 14 direction on Wiltshire County Council at the eleventh hour which prevents the council from granting itself planning permission for the controversial Westbury Bypass. The government now have to make a decision imminently whether there will be an independent public inquiry. The scheme goes against many government policies, particularly on biodiversity, as it damages the habitat of many endangered species such as 13 of the UK's 16 bat species, newts, voles, and dormice (which Wiltshire County Council did not spot in their surveys, and were only spotted by consultants working for local campaign groups). If the government don't call a public inquiry the council will just pass their own planning application to themselves. You can send an email to the planning minister from the Road Block website and this only takes 2 minutes, asking her to call a public inquiry into the scheme as it is nationally controversial. For more info see the A36/A350 Corridor Alliance website.
East Sussex County Council has published its planning application for the scheme which would destroy the tranquillity of the Combe Haven Valley and lead to massive traffic growth in Hastings. The council admit the scheme would lead to an extra 5,426 tonnes of CO2 every year. The Hastings Alliance website allows you to put in an objection straight to the council planning team, and it takes less than 2 minutes. Please put in your objection now!
In an astonishingly bad decision, the Government refused to call in the Weymouth Relief Road for an independent public inquiry and left Dorset County Council to simply pass its own planning permission. Ruth Kelly said that "there is not sufficient conflict with national planning policies"! The road could not be more damaging or controversial and goes against numerous government policies on transport, sustainable development and damage to protected landscapes. The scheme would go through the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) celebrated by Thomas Hardy, a SSSI nature reserve and ancient woodland. It also goes straight through the middle of the Littlemoor housing estate, bringing more noise and pollution to one of the most deprived areas of the town. Also the government's environmental watchdog Natural England consistently objected for 15 months, saying the road would increase traffic in the town, and therefore was not a justified intrusion into the AONB -- see a CPRE press release for more on this. The council is now rushing ahead with the Compulsory Purchase Orders and there will hopefully be a limited public inquiry into these. The campaign is far from over, and local people, furious with the way the government has let them down, are now more resolved than ever to fight this scheme.
Stockport Bypasses refused funding - Goyt Valley saved!
Fantastic news for the Stockport Against the Bypass campaign and Stockport Friends of the Earth as the government refused to pay £860m PFI credits for the Stockport and Poynton Bypasses plus a Manchester Airport link road (SEMMMS roads). This package of road schemes are the first the government have turned down for a very long time. This means that the beautiful Goyt Valley will now be safe. Minister Gillian Merron wrote to Stockport council saying that the scheme was unaffordable, but ominously that they should look at other options... See Stockport Friends of the Earth website for local information.
Southend scheme halved - burial mound saved!
After almost three years of inaction, the DfT has finally refused to pay for the huge cost increase of the Southend Priory Crescent scheme (it went up from £3.5m at first approval in 2000 to £20m in 2006!). Southend Borough Council and the DfT have agreed that the plans must be revised to create a smaller and cheaper scheme. The council has confirmed that any new scheme will now not destroy the Anglo-Saxon King's burial mound, where there has been a protest camp for almost two years. Huge congratulations to Camp Bling! However Parklife, the local resident's group, is still opposed to any other road scheme as it will still bring more traffic, noise, pollution, and CO2 into Southend. Interestingly, at the public inquiry in 2004, when this smaller scheme was put to the council, they said it couldn't be done. See the Parklife website for more information where there is a lovely slideshow of the camp.
Let battle commence at Heysham M6 Link inquiry!
Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) and the Environmental Sustainable Transport Alliance (or ESTA, an alliance of CPRE, Transport 2000, NW TAR, Sustrans, and Friends of the Earth) have lined up a real 'A-Team' of experts to fight the public inquiry into the Heysham M6 Link ("Lancaster Northern Bypas"), funded by a spectacular fundraising effort by TSLM. The inquiry starts on 10 July. Meanwhile in a very dramatic move, Lancaster City Council voted to withdraw its support from the scheme. It joins the MP, 90% of local people, and the Road Haulage Association in rejecting the scheme. Lancashire County Council now stands isolated in promoting it. It is now just up to the Department for Transport to reject the funding bid for the scheme, which it has been sitting on for 2 years. Meanwhile the costs have rocketed to £156m, up from £118m 'worst case' when the bid originally went to DfT in July 2005. See TSLM's great website for more info.
Public inquiry to start on Mottram Tintwistle Bypass in Peak District
The public inquiry into the A628/A616 Mottram-Tintwistle bypass is set to begin on Tuesday 26 June. Objectors have already seen two extensions to the deadline for evidence following late submissions by the Highways Agency. Then on 20 June the Highways Agency published a 150+ page errata to the Environmental Statement, plus amended maps and plans, giving objectors only three working days to amend and submit their evidence! As a result of complaints from objectors, the second item on the agenda for Tuesday is "possible adjournment". For more information, visit the Save Swallow's Wood website.
Legal and direct action at the Rotherwas Access Road
A High Court challenge has been lodged by the Dinedor Hill Action Association against Herefordshire County Council's Unitary Development Plan which has allocated land for housing solely to lever in funding from developers for the Rotherwas Access Road. Work started on the scheme soon after and local people stood in front of the bulldozers with local man Martin Wyness chaining himself to one and being arrested. Funds are urgently needed for the legal action. Dinedor Hill is designated as an area of Great Landscape Beauty.To help please go to the Dinedor Hill Action Association website.
Shrewsbury North West Relief Road - no consultation on the TIF bid
Despite a lack of recent public consultation on any of the aspects of the Shrewsbury TIF bid (which includes the £70m North West Relief Road) an outline business case is being prepared for submitting to DfT for approval in July. There is real concern that any public consultation after this bid is submitted will be a pretence and a farce as they will already have government backing. A picnic on the route of the relief road was held on Father's Day and 50 people attended. Many of them hadn't visited the site before and were amazed at the quality of the landscape at risk. A display on the scheme has been put together and is currently in a shop window in town before going to various events. See the No Way! group's website for more info.
Demonstrations at Norwich road exhibitions
Norfolk residents opposed to the proposed Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) have held demonstrations and leafleted at Norfolk County Council's series of exhibitions. No to the NDR say the exhibitions backfired on the council as they exposed the strength of feeling against the road in the villages close to the route, and the no-road case received great publicity. There was also a demonstration by Norwich Rising Tide outside the exhibitions final venue in Norwich City Centre attracted enthusiastic support from the city's youth. The council is preparing to include the road scheme in a bid to the government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) which is supposed to be for road pricing schemes and innovative public transport - not tired old road schemes! See the No to the NDR website.
Gwent Levels M4 motorway - time for a rethink
The Welsh Assembly has a different political make-up since the recent elections. Labour is still ruling but without an overall majority. The CALM campaign has written to all Assembly Members to ascertain their individual (or Party) position as regards the motorway whilst using the summer period to raise the awareness with local people of the issues involved with this road. See the CALM website for more information.
Scotland set to go backwards on transport policy?
Following a change in administration in Scotland, transport policy looks like taking turn for the worse (if that were possible). While Ministers press on with environmentally damaging schemes like the Glasgow M74 and Aberdeen bypass, sustainable transport projects like Edinburgh's trams have been subject to additional scrutiny by being reviewed by Audit Scotland. Despite a favourable outcome of the review, trams could be killed off at a critical vote to be held in the Scottish Parliament this Wednesday, 27 June. Meanwhile, the new Scottish Executive has announced plans to remove tolls from all Scotland's bridges - a further subsidy to car use.
M11 Link Road residents left with no compensation
Do you remember the infamous protests against the M11 Link Road in London during 1993-5? Well a lot of the local residents who were promised compensation have been left high and dry. The Highways Agency who built the road, transferred the scheme to Transport for London who are now trying to wriggle out of it. About 600 residents have gone to the Lands Tribunal but the case is taking a long time to come to court, and TfL are trying to change the rules. Previously the Tribunal had ruled that the hearings would be heard under procedures where there would be no costs to the residents. TfL want it changed so that the residents would face prohibitive costs.
Camp Titnore still fighting to save ancient woodland in Worthing, Sussex
The multinational consortium who want to build a £3 billion housing and Tesco development in ancient woodland in Sussex have delayed publishing the modified works to Titnore Lane. The modification demanded by campaigners under threat of judicial review, could save over 100 trees in ancient woodland alongside the Lane, but evidence suggests the scheme would only be safe if a 30mph limit was imposed. However the highway authority (West Sussex County Council) oppose the reduction from 60mph. Following a donation from Lush Cosmetics, work has started to prepare the treetop protest camp for the rigours of next winter. Despite all the wind, rain and hardship, the camp has celebrated its first birthday with the campers as determined as ever not to be moved until every threat to this unique area is removed. Further info on the Protect Our Woodland (POW) website.
North Wales Motorway campaign produces folk-anthem
Campaigners against the proposed "improvement" of the east-west North Wales (A494/A55) dual-carriage way to a motorway are raising awareness in respect of the omission of a Health Impact Assessment in the current Welsh Assembly sponsored proposals. Over 2000 individual letters of protest have resulted in a public inquiry during September 2007 for which the Assembly have conceded (free!) shuttle bus services will be required to meet the needs of all interested parties. A specially composed campaign "folk-anthem" video "Gogs Against The Motorway", which shamelessly lampoons the intransigence of current transport thinking is now on Google and YouTube and has had nearly 4000 viewings. Have a look and add your own comments at http://tinyurl.com/24ycfe
East of England Plan delayed until autumn
The Government Office for the East of England has announced that it is commissioning further work to assess the East of England Plan against the requirements of the European Habitats Directive. This decision is in response to representations during the public consultation earlier this year from the Regional Assembly, Natural England, STOP Harlow North and others. This means that the final Plan will not now be published before the autumn at the earliest. See the Stop Harlow North website, who are opposing a massive housing development with associated bypass.
Road Block is a project of Transport 2000, the national environmental transport body. Road Block is a network of community campaigns and individuals against roadbuilding. We run on very little money and always need donations if you can help.