On the 18th March 2021, the High Court confirmed that the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) conceded that the decision to approve the A38 road expansion scheme was “unlawful” and, consequently, the High Court “quashed” the decision made on 8th January 2021.
The application for Judicial Review brought by Mair Bain on 19th February 2021 stated 5 grounds for consideration by the Court. In advance of the Court deciding on all 5 grounds, the Secretary of State accepted that 1 was sufficient for him to concede, and reverse the decision.
The Secretary of State had to concede as he had failed to address the fundamental recommendation of the Planning Inspectorates 567 page report on which his decision was based – on the cumulative effects on Climate Change!
The analysis of the A38 scheme included a considerable amount of evidence on the carbon emissions from the project. In summary these are
- 131,000 tonnes of carbon would be produced from the construction phase, alone, and
- an annual increase of 856 tonnes in 2024, up to 2,723 tonnes in 2039.
[On average, each person in the UK has an annual carbon footprint of ~ 10 tonnes]
The Planning Inspectorate’s report was subject to ( para 9.3) – the Secretary of State satisfying himself on the cumulative impact on Climate Change in the context of up to date targets; the Inspector was not given sufficient data to conclude that himself. It would appear that the Secretary of State chose not to take steps to “satisfy himself” and proceeded with making the decision. This was the specific point that was conceded.
This issue was particularly pertinent as during this Assessment period the Government’s carbon emission targets increased from an 80% reduction to a 100% reduction by 2050. So, in the wake of a signficant commitment to tackle the Climate Emergency, requiring transformational change in infrastructure and public behaviour – he ignored his personal obligation to give this due consideration, and signed it off regardless.
It is worth noting that Transport Action Network are seeking a Judicial Review of the Road Investment Strategy 2 ( which includes the A38) on the basis that it does not support the Government’s 2050 Net Zero target.
Won’t this scheme be good for Derby?
The Highways Agency first considered options to deal with congestion at the 3 roundabouts ( Kingsway, Markeaton, Little Eaton) in 2001. The project faltered between 2005 and 2013 due to funding constraints. In 2015 it was formally re-vitalised when it became part of the Road Investment Strategy.
The plan is to have 3 flyovers which will ease congestion at the roundabouts. It is expected that this will support local economic and housing development. The reduction in idling traffic will have marginal improvements on air quality. However the costs to the City , apart from the stated increased carbon footprint are:
- Significant loss of trees. The report doesn’t specify the number but it is estimated to be in the thousands including some “veteran trees”. Apart from the aestehtics on the landscape, and the absorption of carbon dioxide, trees provide noise attenuation for residents adjacent to the road, and help to lower flooding risks. Whilst trees will be replaced by saplings, it will be decades before they reach maturity and there is no commitment to fully replace.
- Compulsory acquisition of 17 residential properties on Queensway and Ashborne Road
- Total permanent public open space loss is just under 8,000m2. This would be replaced by space from the vacated properties on Queensway, areas of the existing A38 on Markeaton island, and space vacated by the closure of the Brackensdale Avenue Access
- 4 years of congestion during the construction phase. No detailed plans have been presented – suggestions being that traffic would still use sections of the A38 and / or be diverted through the City Centre. Undoubtedly personal “rat runs” would be used to avoid traffic jams.
What is the view of Derby City Council?
This is a Highways Agency project decided by the Secretary of State for Transport. Derby City Council has little influence in the decision, however the Conservative leadership are supportive and do advocate it’s implementation.
I asked Cllr Matthew Holmes ( Conservative Cabinet Member for Regeneration) what his view is on the future of the project given the decision change, and what action will be taken to ensure that no trees will be removed until the scheme is approved. He has declined to comment.
I invited comments from the other political parties:
“The local council has no influence over the decision to expand the A38 but the Labour Party notes the silence from the Tory administration. We have spoken out about the amount of trees planning to be removed, the carbon footprint the project will cause and the 4 year traffic chaos across the city. Derby Labour have signed the letter requesting that no trees are removed while the project is on hold, thanks to the successful legal action of the anti-A38 group.
The Conservatives have taken the position of ‘allowing it to happen’. Our manifesto pledges to stand against any future large road infrastructure plans.”Cllr Baggy Shanker – Leader, Labour Group – Derby City Council
“There is a general consensus that Climate Change action is important now. Previous Court cases, such as those by Client Earth and Plan B Earth, should have alerted the Government to the need to consider the wider environmental implications of infrastructure investment.
That the Government ignores this would indicate that they either don’t understand the science or are wantonly ignoring it. It was not difficult. The Courts identified the issue quickly, while the Secretary of State failed to do so in nearly six monthsCllr Lucy Care – Liberal Democrat
As individuals we are all encouraged to do our bit to make a difference. The Government needs to lead by example by understanding and acting appropriately. There needs to be clear carbon capacity to both deliver the infrastructure investment, and the likely future change in carbon emissions, before approval is given if we are serious about the UK playing its part in combatting the climate emergency.”
“The A38 work needs doing, it always seemed odd to me that we have three roundabouts on our ringroad that basically log jams the through road. Having used the Stoke by pass I could see how effective it was over a decade ago and Derby has been left behind.Cllr Alan W Graves – Leader – Reform Derby
Through roads will reduce pollution as most is created when ‘waiting’ for traffic queues to ease. Derby needs this work doing and the Government needs to be considerate of all the issues that have been raised.
In a local sense my main concern is to the people of Mackworth who are destined to be locked away from Derby for a very long time. It will become obvious that the road network will be diverted along the other side of the ringroad network and that will cause traffic issues for Mickleover, Littleover, Sinfin, Allenton and Alvaston. This will be a sensitive issue for up to four years once construction starts. There is a net benefit from doing this work and the powers that be need to take people with them”
All politicians espouse the need for urgent action to reduce carbon emissions ; Derby City Council declared a Climate Emergency a few years ago. It is to be expected that they all should act in ways that are consistent with this public, and “vote-winning” commitment.
The fact that Grant Shapps conceded the point on Climate Change relatively quickly is very telling. He clearly didn’t think it was worth challenging through the Courts and yet had signed it off just a few months earlier. Congratulations go to Ms Bain and her colleagues for spotting this breach of law and taking the initiative to challenge it.
The target of a “100% reduction” by 2050 will only be achieved by transformational change that encourages people to lead their lives fundamentally differently. Such change will be very expensive – the Government could use the £250m from the road scheme to start funding this.
The A38 road expansion will faciltate more journeys and more cars; the Highways Agency’s own figures predict an increase in carbon emissions, just for this project. The main advantage of the A38 scheme is to reduce congestion at peak times, reduce total journey times, marginally, and improve air quality, marginally.
Whilst some will say that the expansion will improve the City’s economic prospects and reduce “driver stress” – it is not a progressive scheme. It is short-sighted.
There is no reason to believe that the subsequent re-approval of this project is a foregone conclusion.
The people of Derby should expect that the local elected Cllrs should fight hard to ensure that, at worst (if the scheme does go ahead), the proposal is Carbon neutral, and that the environmental impact of tree-felling and loss of valuable open spaces is minimised.
What the City doesn’t need is people holding public office, “rolling over”, abdicating any responsibility for taking action, and using “Westminster decisions” as an excuse for covering up their personal indifference to Climate Change.
Categories: Climate Change