Transport secretary Grant Shapps accused of ‘fiddling while the planet burns’ - International Burch University
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Transport secretary Grant Shapps accused of ‘fiddling while the planet burns’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has been accused of “fiddling while the planet burns”, in response to his road building policy.

The damning indictment was made by campaign group Transport Action Network after the Department for Transport (DfT) unveiled more details about its review of the National Networks Policy Statement (NNPS).

The DfT pledged to carry out a review of the NNPS –  which underpins road investment within the UK – as part of its Transport Decarbonisation Plan published last week.

However, Shapps has now confirmed that the review will not be concluded until Spring 2023, meaning road schemes earmarked for construction before then will continue as planned.

Likewise, planning officials have been instructed to use the existing policy statement as guidance when carrying out their application examinations during the next two years.

The current NNPS was written up in 2014 before the Government’s legal commitment to net zero was announced, and before the publication of the 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the new Sixth Carbon Budget and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

The Transport Action Network therefore claims that it is “unacceptable” to keep it in use for the next two years.

Transport Action Network director Chris Todd said: “As our roads melt and places around the world face record temperatures and floods, the words ‘climate emergency’ appear to have no meaning within the Department for Transport.

“Instead, all we seem to get are delay, delay and yet more delay. We’ve been calling on Grant Shapps to reset national roads policy for nearly a year and a half, during which time he’s twice refused to take action. Having now finally accepted the inevitable, he is still fiddling while the planet burns.”

Todd added: “For the next two years, existing policy that “any increase in carbon emissions is not a reason to refuse development consent” will remain in force. It is simply unacceptable to refuse to suspend that.

“Especially after Grant Shapps has wasted so much time already. We need a moratorium on all road-building until such a review is completed. Quite simply, we need the Department for Transport to stop making things worse.”

Shapps said: “While the NPS continues to remain in force, it is right that we review it in the light of […] developments and update forecasts on which it is based to reflect more recent, post-pandemic conditions, once they are known.

“The aim is to begin the review later this year and for it to be completed no later than spring 2023.

“This review will include a thorough examination of the modelling and forecasts that support the statement of need for development and the environmental, safety, resilience and local community considerations that planning decisions must take into account.”

He added: “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.

“While the review is undertaken, the NPS remains relevant government policy and has effect for the purposes of the Planning Act 2008. The NPS will, therefore, continue to provide a proper basis on which the Planning Inspectorate can examine, and the Secretary of State for Transport can make decisions on, applications for development consent.”


Department of Civil Engineering