Campaign granted permission for judicial review of £27 billion roads programme in England

By agency reporter
August 6, 2020

Transport Action Network (TAN) has been granted permission for judicial review of UK Government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to go ahead with the £27 billion roads programme (Roads Investment Strategy 2 or RIS2) in England.

Mrs Justice Lieven gave the go ahead for the review, saying that TAN’s case that Mr Shapps had not properly considered the impact of the multi-billion pound roads-building scheme on climate change objectives, including the carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Agreement, was arguable.

The Judge also declared the case to be “significant” which means it will be fast-tracked and should be heard at the High Court by early November.
 
Represented by Leigh Day solicitors, TAN has further asked that the decision should also be allowed to scrutinised on the grounds of air quality and lack of strategic environmental assessment, which the first judge initially refused.
 
It argues that the Secretary of State has a duty to “actively to drive down levels of air pollution, not merely to ask himself whether air quality impacts of a given development are too severe to permit it to proceed”.
 
It argues that strategic environmental impact is grounds for review because although the judge said RIS2 “is an investment document rather than a planning policy document for future development” and therefore would not fall within the Strategic Environmental Assessment regulations, RIS2 is “a document containing elements of (or akin to) planning policy” because it constrains consideration of the need for road projects further down the line.

Importantly, these arguments will be made in the context of there being a mandatory legal duty placed on the Secretary of State to have regard to the effect of RIS2 on the environment, yet RIS2 having never been subject to any sort of environmental impact assessment, let alone being consulted on or subject to parliamentary debate.

Rebecca Lush, TAN’s local groups support officer, said: “We are delighted that the judge agreed with us that it is arguable that the impact of this road building programme on the UK’s climate change objectives has not been properly considered. Building more roads and increasing traffic will take us in the opposite direction needed to meet our commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
 
“We believe that the impact on air quality and the environment will also be considerable and we hope to be able to argue the case on those grounds too.”
 
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said: “Our client believes the case for RIS2 has not been thought through with regard to its impact on the country’s climate change target, the impact on air quality and the environment. We are delighted that there will now be a full hearing to scrutinise whether or not RIS2 is compatible with the government’s commitments on climate change, and we hope the courts will recognise that the other two grounds are also arguable.”

* Transport Action Network https://transportactionnetwork.org.uk/

* Leigh Day https://www.leighday.co.uk/

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