High Court challenge puts Lower Thames Crossing in the spotlight
The future of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing was highlighted this week (Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29-30) when a legal challenge against the government’s roadbuilding programme was heard in the High Court.
The challenge was brought by the Transport Action Network and targeted the Department for Transport’s £27.4 billion roadbuilding scheme (labelled Road Investment Strategy 2, or RIS2), saying it breached climate and air quality laws.
TAN claims the government has failing to consider fully the Paris Agreement, which commits the UK to tackling climate change by limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Indeed, the group says the transport secretary pulled plans to cut CO2 emissions for a tranche of upgrades and new schemes.
RIS2 includes 50 schemes, the largest of which is the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing.
TAN said it expected the DfT to contest its challenge, saying commitments to climate change were not “obviously material” to roadbuilding schemes.
However, Chris Todd, TAN director, said: “Trying to argue climate change isn’t ‘obviously material’ to approving the largest-ever roads programme is like saying public health is not relevant to reform of smoking rules.
“In an audacious attempt to protect his addiction to asphalt, [Transport Secretary Grant] Shapps is now seeking a legal precedent that decision-makers can ignore climate targets.
“This puts ministers on a collision course with the Climate Change Committee, which [has] called on the government to adopt a Net Zero Test for all policy decisions.”
Laura Blake, chairman of the Thames Crossing Action Group, said: “We know that the proposed Lower Thames Crossing would create over five million tonnes of carbon emissions, along with all the other negative impacts which we would suffer if the LTC were to go ahead.
“We have many serious concerns about the impacts of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and feel it is essential that all the negative impacts of the scheme should be taken into account.
“We are grateful to TAN for bringing this legal challenge on climate grounds against the government’s £27bn roadbuilding programme, which of course includes the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing.
“We wholeheartedly support this legal challenge and appreciate all the hard work by TAN and the legal team.”