Since we started campaigning against the proposed Lower Thames Crossing our network has grown, and we are now aware of and in touch with many other campaigns and legal challenges in relation to roads and the RIS2 road building programme, which includes the proposed LTC.
As we always say “Together we are stronger” and over the years the network we have, and are building, with others directly relating to LTC and also other projects has certainly been a real benefit to everyone concerned, by sharing knowledge and support.
Current Relevant legal challenges
This project was pushed through and granted a DCO by Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps despite the Planning Inspectorate’s official recommendation that it be refused as the project would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the UNESCO site.
Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) legal challenge was heard in the High Court in June 2021.
However, on 14th July 2023 Government announced they have for a second time granted permission for the A303 Stonehenge project, against all recommendations and evidence. Stonehenge Alliance are now launching a new legal challenge.
A57 Link Roads (part of the so-called ‘Trans Pennine Upgrade Programme’)
CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire are launching a legal challenge against this recently approved road project. This is a result of a lot of hard work by our friend Anne Robinson along with others. The case is that it is unlawful for the government to allow such road schemes (1) without assessing the cumulative effect of carbon emissions and (2) failing to consider alternatives which would not harm the green belt, the national park, or our climate. The dates of the court hearing are the 3rd and 4th October 2023.
Our friend Dr Andrew Boswell is doing some great work and launching legal challenges on climate grounds. The case challenges the government’s unlawful approach of allowing large road schemes to go ahead without cumulative assessment of carbon emissions – a win could help ensure proper climate impact assessment for proposed highway schemes around the UK.
Stop the cuts to walking and cycling
Government have cut funding for active travel (walking/cycling) whilst still attempting to push ahead with hugely destructive and harmful road projects, like the proposed £10bn Lower Thames Crossing, which would not be fit for purpose and offers no provision for cross river active travel, and would not be viable for public transport due to a lack of adequate connections. We need and deserve better and more sustainable alternatives, not for funding of it to be cut. Our friends at Transport Action Network (TAN) are launching a legal challenge on the government’s decision to cut active travel funding.
On July 18th 2022 news broke that a joint legal challenge had been successful and that the High Court had ordered the Government to outline exactly how its net zero policies will achieve emissions targets. Read Friends of the Earth’s statement,and Client Earth’s statement on the win!
On 13th Oct 2022 it was announced that the Government have confirmed they will not be appealing this ruling – click here.
The High Court ordered Ministers to update the plan and show how its policies would achieve the Government’s own Net Zero climate targets by 31 March 2023. The Carbon Budget Delivery Plan was published on 30th March 2023.
However, the three NGOs who made the original legal challenge are now taking further legal challenge, as they and their legal teams believe that the Government’s revised plan is not fit for purpose and breaches the Climate Change Act too.
This follows the Climate Change Committees calls for things like an urgent review of current and future road building, and Zac Goldsmith accusing the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak of being “simply uninterested” in climate change, as he resigned from his role as environment minister last week.
Obviously with the proposed LTC estimated to emit over 6.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions, challenges in regard to carbon net zero strategy are relevant to our fight against LTC. Especially when you take into account the fact that TAN’s actions have forced the government to review the NPS NN (roads policy) partly because it is outdated and not compliant with the UKs legal commitment to carbon net zero.
Recent relevant legal challenges
Transport Action Network
Our friends at Transport Action Network (TAN) have been a huge help to us here at TCAG, and we are grateful to them for all their help and support. You can find out more about TANs previous legal challenges against the UK Government, all of which are very relevant to LTC. via our update here.
Other legal challenges fighting road projects
A38 Derby Junction scheme
Stop the A38 Derby group made a legal challenge which has forced Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, to agree to the High Court quashing the permission he gave for the go-ahead of the scheme. Shapps acknowledged that he failed to give reasons on the scheme’s cumulative climate impacts with other road schemes in meeting the UK’s national climate targets. However, it is likely Shapps will simply remake the same decision, so local residents are staying vigilant to protect the thousands of trees threatened by the scheme. Read more here.
A27 Arundel Bypass
Dr Emma Tristram made a legal challenge against the inadequacies of the A27 Arundel Bypass consultation back in 2017 which resulted in Highways England (as they were known at the time) agreeing to undertake a fresh non-statutory consultation in 2019. Read more here.
Other LTC related considerations
The following all have relevance in regard to the proposed LTC project:
Review of the NPS NN
The National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPS NN) is the policy that is used for examining new Nationally Significant road projects, like the proposed LTC. It was written in 2014, before the government legally committed to Carbon Net Zero and is considered to be out of date on climate grounds. The policy is currently being reviewed, which is expected to be complete by Spring 2023. It is expected it will have to be updated to reflect new climate related legislation and guidance.
Whilst this is super relevant to the proposed LTC, until such time as the policy is updated Government can continue to push through projects judged by the current outdated policy, as they have refused to suspend the policy whilst the review and update takes place. The question now is which will come first the updated policy or the resubmission of the LTC Development Consent Order (DCO), and what might come next as a result.
Call for review of RIS2
Transport Action Network (TAN) have written to Grant Shapps asking him to reopen (review) the strategic roads programme RIS2. There are certain conditions in National Highways licence that they have to comply with, else the RIS programme needs to be reviewed. TAN have highlighted various factors and variations that result in the call for the RIS to be reviewed.
TCAG have also sent our own letter to Mr Shapps calling for the re-opening of RIS2, which includes the proposed LTC. Read more here.
Introduction of new legal levels for air pollution
Government have finally set new legal environmental targets, including for air pollution. We know that the whole proposed LTC route would fail against these new levels for PM2.5, so the new legal targets should be very relevant to the proposed LTC.
Call for pause of ‘Smart’ LTC
In light of the Government’s announcement that the roll out of Smart Motorways has been paused whilst 5 years of safety data is collected and analysed, TCAG have called upon Government to pause the ‘Smart’ LTC in line with the pause of Smart Motorways. TCAG have written evidence from NH/LTC stating that even though the LTC is being designed as an A road, it is being designed to Smart Motorway standards, would use smart technology, and that only vehicles that can legally use a motorway would be able to use it. Read more here.
We will do our best to update this page as and when needed to reflect any changes or additional info and challenges.