Legal challenge against three A47 upgrades dismissed

Three major new road schemes on the A47 in Norfolk are a step closer to going ahead after a legal challenge was dismissed by the Court of Appeal – although campaigners could take the case to the Supreme Court.

The roads are: a dual carriageway and junctions between Blofield and North Burlingham; a dual carriageway and junctions between North Tuddenham and Easton; and redevelopment of Thickthorn junction where the A47 meets the A11 south of Norwich.

All three were due to be delivered by Galliford Try, but National Highways announced it would re-tender the Thickthorn junction job for undisclosed reasons last summer.

The legal challenge was brought by Andrew Boswell, a retired climate scientist and former Green Party councillor. He is now considering appealing to the Supreme Court and is consulting his legal team, reports Construction News’ sister publication New Civil Engineer.

The crowd-funded challenge was over the schemes’ Development Consent Orders (DCOs) – the planning permission needed for large infrastructure projects – on the grounds that the Department for Transport and National Highways “failed to properly assess the combined impact of the schemes on climate change, instead only looking at each scheme in isolation”.

Boswell first challenged them at the High Court in May 2023, where his case was dismissed, before he took the case to the Court of Appeal.

The appeal judges found the DCOs were appropriately assessed for carbon emissions. They concluded that the secretary of state for transport’s decision to adopt the methodology used by National Highways to assess the cumulative carbon effects of the schemes was acceptable.

The judges said that “there was no meaningful way in which a wider assessment of cumulative emissions could be carried out in the light of current scientific knowledge and the lack of any geographical boundary for such emissions”.

It added that the cumulative emissions calculations were in line with legal requirements of relevant carbon budgets, at a point where all three schemes would be in place – and this detail formed a fundamental element of the decision to grant development consent.

After the ruling, Boswell said: “We think the judgement is mistaken in setting out a flawed approach. Close to Norwich, four large road schemes, including the Norwich Western link, are planned for construction in the next few years, and these have never been properly assessed together and it is important that they are.

“They are estimated to generate over a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next few years, just from the construction alone, not including the additional traffic and higher speeds.”

He added: “Meeting our UK national carbon targets, especially near-term ones, is a matter of great public importance, and we are considering whether to apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

National Highways east region programme leader Chris Griffin said the ruling was “welcome news for people living and working around Norwich”.

“We know from speaking to local people there is overwhelming support for these schemes and this is a positive step in progressing our plans to improve journey times and increase safety on the A47.

“The A47 is a vital artery connecting the east of the country with the heart of UK. Being in a position to move forward with our job of delivering a safer and more reliable road that will contribute towards long-term economic growth for the region and help to connect people and communities is very exciting.”

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