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Fri July 19 2024

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Further hurdles ahead for Galliford Try road schemes

10 Jul 23 National Highways has received High Court backing for its A47 improvement schemes in Norfolk but the decision is set to be appealed.

The A47 between Blofield and North Bellingham is scheduled to be upgraded to dual carriageway
The A47 between Blofield and North Bellingham is scheduled to be upgraded to dual carriageway

At issue is whether National Highways should have considered the cumulative impact of three consecutive stretches of road upgrade on air quality in its environmental impact assessment, or whether it was right to treat different stretches as different roads.  

Retired environmental scientist and former local councillor Andrew Boswell went to the High Court in London to challenge the legality of the development consent orders (DCOs) granted by transport secretary Grant Shapps last year for the three schemes.

Dr Boswell claimed that the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 had been breached.

On Friday 7th July the judge, Justine Thornton, found that the DCOs had been properly assessed and will stand.

Concluding her judgment, Mrs Justice Thornton said: “The secretary of state succeeds on the primary issue raised by the challenge in that the court is not persuaded that his approach to the assessment of cumulative carbon emissions was unlawful and/or in breach of IEIA regulations.”

Dr Boswell’s lawyers are preparing an appeal on the basis that the court was given clear evidence that no lawful cumulative assessment had been produced for the carbon emissions that would be generated by the schemes together.  Evidence was also provided that no lawful assessment of the impact of the cumulative emissions on meeting the UK carbon budgets existed. Dr Boswell’s team says that the judge made legal errors in reaching her decision.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is Galliford Try and its supply chain, wanting to get started on more than £500m-worth of construction. Work was supposed to have started six months ago.

The three road schemes are:

• a new dual carriageway and junctions on the A47 between Blofield and North Burlingham; estimated at £90m cost last year

• a new dual carriageway and junctions on the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton; estimated at up to £250m cost

• redevelopment of Thickthorn junction (where A11 meets the A47 south of Norwich; estimated; costed last year at £161m, up from initial £50m-£100m range.

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The original completion date for the Blofield scheme was summer 2024, the Tuddenham upgrade was due to open to traffic in winter 2025, and the Thickthorn redevelopment was scheduled for early 2025.

National Highways will now work with Galliford Try to establish new timescales for the projects, it said, given that a number of months have already been lost as a result of the legal challenges. Any change to the completion dates of the projects will be announced by National Highways over the coming weeks.

Chris Griffin, programme leader for National Highways in the east region, welcomed the decision from the High Court, describing it as “wonderful news for people living and working around Norwich”.

He said: “Our plans will improve journey times and are designed to make the A47 a safer road. We know from speaking to local people there is overwhelming support for these schemes.”

National Highways projects that the schemes will prevent 119 serious or fatal accidents over the next 60 years – or two injuries/deaths a year.

The other benefit is economic. “The A47 is a vital artery connecting the east of the country with the heart of UK,” Chris Griffin said. “Being able to move forward with our job of delivering a safer and more reliable road that will contribute towards long-term economic growth for the region and help to connect people and communities is very exciting.”

He added: "It’s a fundamental right that people have a route to challenge the government when they feel it is necessary. These legal challenges have been running for almost a year now and I am very pleased with the outcome of the judicial reviews that potentially puts us one step away from being able to break ground and start work on these important projects.”

Andrew Boswell said: “This case is extremely important as it addresses issues of pressing public importance including how the environmental impacts of new infrastructure are assessed and whether the UK can deliver its climate targets.   I am going to the Court of Appeal to safeguard the clear and wide-ranging legal protections which do exist in UK law.  The relentless drive from government and developers, in cases such as these schemes, to turn a blind eye to the true environmental impacts of the scheme in order to avoid facing up to the true climate impacts of their decisions is astonishing.  It is remarkable that the Government has fought tooth and nail merely to avoid having to face up to the cumulative climate impacts of one part of their road-building programme. 

“The case is of wide importance as the same methodology which systematically ignores cumulative emissions is used to assess nearly all road schemes in the UK.  And as each road scheme is only assessed on its own individual impact, it is approved on the false conclusion that there is no combined material impact, from the many new roads being planned, to the delivery of the UK net zero targets.”

He added: “The climate emergency is very urgent: we cannot afford unnecessary emissions.  This last month has seen temperature records are being broken around the globe, with scientists expressing concern at extremely concerning trends.  Today the United Nations has said climate change ‘out of control’ after likely hottest week on record. The climate stakes are high for us, our children and grandchildren.  I embarked upon this legal action for future generations, and I am humbled to now be taking it to the Court of Appeal.”

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