‘Fiddling while the planet burns’: Campaigners criticise road upgrade plans

Grant Shapps discusses ‘cautious approach’ to travel

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According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the planning policy for England’s road network will be reviewed because of the change in habits. Trends in working from home and online shopping have “dramatically increased” since the start of the pandemic, although the shift was starting to happen gradually.

The planning policy was also drawn up before major environmental targets were set. 

Speaking to MPs, Shapps commented on the changing habits across the whole country.

He said: “In the last 18 months, fundamental changes have occurred in commuting, shopping, and business travel, which before the pandemic made up 30 percent of all road journeys by distance, and a much higher proportion at the times and places of greatest pressure.

“Trends already under way in homeworking, online shopping and videoconferencing, all of which had reduced trip rates even before the pandemic, have dramatically increased, and seem unlikely to be fully reversed.”

The Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield also mentioned a “hopefully temporary” move away from public transport.

There was also an increase in delivery traffic during the pandemic.

He stressed that high investment in roads will remain necessary, pointing out that more than half of the £27 billion programme for England’s strategic roads is for improvements to the existing network or to improve safety or the environment.

There are hopes that by the time the improvements are made, more electric and autonomous vehicles will be on the roads.


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The review of the national policy statement (NPS) on national networks will begin late this year and is expected to be completed by spring 2023.

Speaking on the statement, Shapps also said: “Reviewing the NPS will ensure that it remains fit for purpose in supporting the Government’s commitments for appropriate development of infrastructure for road, rail and strategic rail freight interchanges.”

However, there have been some critics of the move, with some campaigners saying that before the review comes into effect, planners can use existing guidelines.

This means that they could ignore any environmental requirements that have since been put in place because they are still following the existing guidelines.


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