Update On National Policy For Roads

We are in the midst of an interesting period as far as roads policy is concerned, reports Tom Henderson.

In late November 2011 Infrastructure UK published its second National Infrastructure Plan (NIP 2011). NIP 2011 recognises the importance of good infrastructure in stimulating economic growth, and prioritises investment in 40 areas. For the roads sector, these comprise:

Highways Agency - the pre-2010 Spending Review programme in construction, the 2010 Spending Review programmes for trunk road improvements and managed motorways and the 2011 Autumn Statement package (25 schemes in total); New Lower Thames crossing; Mersey Gateway Bridge; Local transport projects funded at or before the 2010 Spending Review (includes the Heysham to M6 link road); Local authority major transport schemes - development pool projects (included some 26 road schemes as at December 2011). So in total over 50 major road schemes have been prioritised for funding.

NIP 2011 might, in itself, be seen as an expression of national policy on the need for new road schemes. Nevertheless national policy for roads is shortly to be set out in the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS). The principal purpose of this document will be to guide decision-making on applications for major road schemes captured by the 'national significance' thresholds in the Planning Act 2008. These are currently administered by the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which from April will be replaced by the National Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate. The NNNPS also has the potential to outline policies for road schemes not caught by the Planning Act. The NNNPS will initially be published in draft for consultation, and will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny prior to being designated. At the time of writing a publication of a draft NNNPS was expected 'imminently' from the DfT.

The NNNPS will potentially be a powerful document. It has the capacity to set out how much roads development is appropriate, where it should go, and what action should be taken to mitigate adverse impacts. Most importantly, once the NNNPS is designated any major road scheme caught by the Planning Act 2008 will, in essence, be decided in accordance with the NNNPS unless the adverse impacts would outweigh the benefits. Thus promoters of road schemes are strongly recommended...

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