A campaign group has threatened the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England with a legal challenge to the £27bn Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2), which was launched alongside the Budget earlier this year.
Transport Action Network claim the plan breaches climate and air quality law, and so should be scrapped. It is relying on the Court of Appeal’s decision this February that ruled Heathrow expansion was unlawful because ministers had ignored the UN Paris Agreement.
Chris Todd, TAN’s director, said: “The DfT has fiddled with ideas like green number plates while the planet overheats. Road transport is now the single biggest source of UK carbon emissions. How can the DfT claim to take climate change seriously when it is set to burn billions on the ‘largest ever roads programme’ to make things worse?
“In the last few weeks ministers have said they want to go ‘further and faster’ to tackle climate change, finally recognising we need ‘to use our cars less’. Planning for RIS2 started in 2015, quite simply a different era. This massive roads programme is like a juggernaut that’s out of control. We have no choice now but to go to court to prevent an unfolding disaster.”
Rowan Smith, environmental law solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “Our clients are raising legitimate concerns over the Government’s decision to invest huge sums of public money into the road network. The Department of Transport recently accepted that the climate emergency necessitates a shift towards sustainable travel.
“So our clients question the appropriateness of proceeding now with Road Investment Strategy 2, which would mean vast amounts of carbon and pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, with inevitably disastrous effects on the environment.
"Our clients are therefore arguing that the Government ought to have properly assessed the climate change and air pollution impact of these proposals before going ahead.”
The campaigners are seeking to raise £38,000 via the Crowdjustice platform to cover legal fees for the challenge.
TAN is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, David Wolfe QC (Matrix chambers) and Pete Lockley (11 KBW).