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Campaigners issue roads policy challenge

14 Dec 20 A transport environment campaign group has issued a legal challenge to government road policy arguing that it fails to comply with government’s own commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

Transport Action Network (TAN) has applied for judicial review of transport secretary Grant Shapps’ decision not to review the national networks national policy statement in the wake of more recent legislation.

 The national policy statement (NPS) was designated in 2014, before the 2015 Paris Agreement, which requires the UK to reduce carbon emissions, and before the June 2019 amendment to Climate Change Act 2008, introducing the net zero target.

TAN claims that Mr Shapps’ decision not to review the NPS in light of those changes is “irrational and unlawful”.

Fighting the case of the campaigners is the Islington law firm Leigh Day that specialises in green and red causes. Leigh Day has also acted for opponents of Heathrow Airport expansion, the Stonehenge tunnel, construction of waste incinerators and the expansion of permitted development rights.

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Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said of the roads policy challenge: “Clearly a lot has changed since 2014 with regard to the need for road transport and attitudes to climate change, but more importantly in this case, with the law. More ambitious climate change targets and more stringent legal requirements in respect of air pollution all mean that transport policy must keep pace and stay within the law.

“In light of that, the decision by Grant Shapps not to make a timely review of the NPS is, in our client’s view, irrational and unlawful.”

Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network, said: “Since this roads policy was approved in 2014, surface transport emissions have barely changed and are now the biggest source of carbon. It’s clearly time for a radical rethink, rather than ramming through ever more damaging roads.

“With the world’s attention falling on the UK as it co-hosts COP26, if our transport emissions don’t plummet quickly, our reputation will. Ministers have dithered for far too long and, should quickly concede. Long term ambitions are welcome, but will be undermined unless they take their foot off the gas right now.”

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