Road Investment Strategy

The Government published the National Infrastructure Plan in October 2010. It is regularly updated.  Since 2014 the roads strand of the NIP has been aligned with the more detailed Roads Investment Strategy (RIS). In October 2015 the Government set out those RIS projects for the South West for the current investment period (2015-2021):

  • a new junction on the M49 at Avonmouth [to “release the potential for a further 8,000 jobs in the Severnside and Avonmouth area”];
  • improvements to the M5 J23 at Bridgwater [to “support proposals to develop around 5,000 new homes and create more than 4,400 new jobs”, it will also “be key to the construction and ongoing success of the new power station planned at Hinckley Point”];
  • an upgrade to an 8.7 mile section of single carriageway on the A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross roundabouts;
  • development of a scheme on the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down route that passes Stonehenge, including building a tunnel;
  • dualling the A303 between Sparkford and IIchester;
  • dualling the A358 from the M5 at Taunton to A303 at Southfields; and
  • investigations into the benefits of connecting the 2 dual carriageway sections of the A417 near Birdlip, Gloucestershire [with a view to presenting options by 2020]

Across the South West, Highways England will also spend a further £90 million during 2015/16 to resurface roads, repair and renew structures like bridges and viaducts; and improve safety barriers. [DfT press notice, “Details of £2 billion South West roads plan”, 13 October 2015]

Local Enterprise Partnership & Growth Fund

More locally, the Local Transport Board of the Heart of the South West LEP has selected five initial schemes to be prioritised for its initial tranche of funding from the DfT:

  • Bridge Road widening, Exeter (£4.55 million);
  • Derriford/William Prance Road Junctions, Plymouth (£5.76 million);
  • Marsh Barton/Edginswell railway stations (£3.0 million);
  • Torbay Western Corridor (£7.3 million); and
  • Yeovil Western Corridor (£6.49 million).

 

A30/A303/A358 improvement project

One of the key projects for the South West is the A303/A30/A358 improvement project. The road runs through the Blackdown Hills AONB and past Stonehenge and is one of the main access routes between London, the South East and the South West.

In its October 2015 statement (see above) the Government said that it is:

  • developing a scheme between Amesbury to Berwick Down on the A303 around Stonehenge, including building a tunnel to “improve journey time reliability on this heavily congested road and improve the setting of the World Heritage Site”; and
  • dualling the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester and the A358 between the M5 at Taunton and A303 at Southfields

Its intention is that these three schemes, taken together, would be “the first steps in our aspirations to provide an expressway between the M3 and the South West”.

It is also working with Cornwall Council to develop a scheme to provide more than eight miles of new dual carriageway on the A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross roundabouts “to support local plans that will see an increase of over 22,000 homes and more than 11,000 jobs”. [op cit., “Details of £2 billion South West roads plan”]

Somerset Council states that the economic benefits from these improvements potentially include strengthening inward investment, developing local supply chains and improving accessibility for tourists. The key economic benefits for the region identified over 60 years include:

  • £41.6 billion of economic benefit (Gross Value Added);
  • 21,400 jobs; and
  • A further £21.2 billion of economic benefits including tax generation, welfare payment savings, disposable income and tourism spend.   

[Somerset Council, A30/A303/A358 Improvement Project, accessed 24 February 2016]

The Government’s feasibility study reported in March 2015 and concluded that it would “construct a tunnel at least 1.8 miles long to take traffic away from the surface, reuniting the landscape of the World Heritage Site” and:

  • … set aside funding for smaller-scale improvements to the A303/A30 section between Southfields and Honiton to improve safety and journey quality for road users recognising that large-scale improvements would be challenging given the protected features and landscape surrounding the route. This includes some small-scale work in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, taking account of the environmental sensitivity of the area. [DfT, A303/A30/A358 Corridor Study, 12 March 2015]

Campaigners against the scheme have called for a much longer tunnel beneath Stonehenge. The Stonehenge Alliance says:

  • A 4.5km tunnel, starting within the already dualled eastern section of the A303 and passing south of the Stones, would avoid a new road on the surface within the WHS and need not damage the site further. Ideally, we would advocate a considerably longer tunnel of at least 6km, to allow restoration of the whole WHS and its setting. Such a tunnel would meet Government’s duty under the World Heritage Convention as well as its planning policy and guidance for our WHSs.

Specifically on the AONB aspect, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that planning permission for “major development” should be refused for major development in designated areas (which include AONBs), except in exceptional circumstances “and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest”. [para 116]

Paragraph: 005 Reference ID: 8-005-20140306 from the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) explains how “major development” is defined.

For Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects the National Networks NPS states that there is a “strong presumption” against “any significant road widening or the building of new roads” in an AONB:

  • … unless it can be shown there are compelling reasons for the new or enhanced capacity and with any benefits outweighing the costs very significantly. Planning of the Strategic Road Network should encourage routes that avoid National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. [paras 5.150-3]

Related posts

  • This briefing paper provides an overview of the existing legal framework for electric scooters (e-scooters). It also analyses the arguments for and against legalising e-scooters on UK roads, drawing on the limited evidence from other countries and cities that have sanctioned their use.

  • This paper gives an overview of the concept of national road pricing, including its history in the UK and current debates about its attractions as a replacement for fuel duty and vehicle excise duty in the future.

  • This paper explains the ongoing debate about the safety of All Lane Running (ALR) on smart motorways, including the Government’s stocktake and action plan, published in March 2020.