Last week's spending round was another nail
in the coffin of "the greenest government ever". Treasury minister Danny
Alexander's speech was a stream of plans and proposals to carve up the
countryside, ratchet up road emissions and slash funding for green transport.
So much for a green economy.
This was a return to the 1950s with spending
announcements for the next 5 years centred on switching funds to big new roads.
Setting out a £28 billion road-building
plan, the most mind-boggling proposal is a plan to dual most of the Highways
Agency’s main roads, which could revive some of the most damaging of the
schemes that were dropped after widespread protests in the 1990s and 2000s. If
carried through, these plans would end up creating the equivalent of motorways
through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, the Blackdown Hills and Bodmin Moor
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the South Downs, Norfolk Broads and
Peak District National Parks.
This is an expensive, dangerous and
pointless policy. The non-dual carriageway sections of the HA network are that
way for a good reason – either they are quiet stretches with low traffic or
they pass through some of the most precious and sensitive landscapes and
habitats in England. Any congestion in these areas should be dealt with by
providing alternatives not by old-school ‘predict and provide’ road-building.
On local routes the government’s plans are
almost as bad. Council budgets for sustainable transport, including parts of
the Integrated Transport Block and all the capital funding intended for Local
Sustainable Transport Fund projects, are now going to be folded into a single
pot controlled by the 39 unelected Local Enterprise Partnerships.
This could mean no new capital
funding at all for greener transport outside London.
The idea of a £1bn Office for Active Travel to invest in walking and cycling
was also put firmly in the bin.
We’re tracking road-building plans across
the country. So far, more than 230 bypasses, link roads and widening schemes
appear on our online map,
and the new plans will add dozens more up to 2020 and beyond. We’re warning
that reviving these zombie roads will light the touch paper for a new wave of
campaigns and protests against them. Chancellor George Osborne got a taste of
the opposition his plans will face earlier in the week when the Combe Haven
Defenders from Hastings travelled 250 miles to lay a 50m dual-carriageway
outside his country house in the Peak District.
And on Saturday 13 July, campaigners from
across the UK will gather for a national Rally Against Road-Building at the site of the road proposal the Combe Haven Defenders are fighting
against: the most destructive and fiercely opposed new road being built in
England - the £100 million Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.
The rally is organised by the Roads to
Nowhere campaign at Campaign for Better Transport, along with local groups the
Combe Haven Defenders and Hastings Alliance, and supported by Greenpeace, the
Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trusts
If you support a more rational and less
destructive transport policy, join us! We’ll be taking people on a choice of
three guided walks through the precious Combe Haven valley (also quite possibly
the true site of the Battle of Hastings)
and holding a rally in Crowhurst village with music, comedy and speakers from
national and local groups.
Sian Berry works at the Campaign for Better Transport