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Case against A47 schemes heard by Court of Appeal

Deniz Huseyin
25 January 2024
Campaigner Dr Andrew Boswell (centre in red anorak) at the Court of Appeal with supporters
Campaigner Dr Andrew Boswell (centre in red anorak) at the Court of Appeal with supporters

Environmental campaigners are awaiting the outcome of a case heard in the Court of Appeal last week that could have far-reaching implications for major road schemes across the country.

The challenge, against three road schemes in Norfolk, was brought by campaigner Dr Andrew Boswell.

He is challenging the granting of development consent for the A47 schemes, which are each part of the same road programme, on the grounds that the DfT and National Highways failed to properly assess the combined impact of the three schemes on climate change, instead only looking at each scheme in isolation.

Boswell lost his High Court challenge in May 2023, but was allowed an appeal hearing, and expects a judgment on the case in six to 12 weeks.

He is represented by David Wolfe KC, Peter Lockley and Ben Mitchell, instructed by Richard Buxton Solicitors. Lewis Hadler of Richard Buxton Solicitors said: “This is an important climate case that will have wider implications for the way in which cumulative carbon emissions are considered. Our client and the many people who have supported his case are right to expect proper scrutiny of this important aspect of the assessment of infrastructure projects and for the Government to be held to account for its commitments to address climate change.”

The DfT said its environmental impact assessment was correct. James Strachan, KC, barrister for Transport Secretary Mark Harper, said there was a legal obligation to meet carbon emissions budgets from all sectors, not just roads.

The development consent order, approved in 2022, included a new dual carriageway and junctions between Blofield and North Burlingham?, and between North Tuddenham and Easton, and redevelopment of the Thickthorn junction south-west of Norwich, where the A11 meets the A47.

Two other climate-focused legal challenges to the A38 Derby Junctions and A57 Link Roads schemes are awaiting the outcome of the appeal. Boswell said that if he wins his appeal, National Highways may have to reassess the carbon calculations for all their other road schemes, including the £10bn Lower Thames Crossing and the dualling of the A66 between the M6 at Penrith and A1(M) at Scotch Corner.

Boswell said: “This case has wide implications for how ministers make decisions in the face of the rapidly worsening climate crisis. Government climate policies are failing, and especially for transport which is the UK's largest carbon emitting sector. Each time a minister approves a new road scheme whilst stubbornly refusing to consider the full climate impacts, the national challenge of meeting our climate targets is severely undermined.”

The appeal challenges the Government’s “unlawful approach” of allowing large road schemes to go ahead without cumulative assessment of carbon emissions, said Boswell. “A win could help ensure proper climate impact assessment for proposed highway schemes around the UK,” he said.

Boswell was a Green County Councillor at Norfolk County Council between 2005 and 2017 alongside a long career as a scientist, which included developing climate change models.

The broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham sent his support to Boswell, saying: “Instead of rapidly reducing carbon emissions, the Government is instead driving them up with huge new road building projects. Dr Boswell is courageously challenging this unsustainable approach in the Court of Appeal by questioning the routine underestimating of the emissions caused by increasing traffic. I salute him and all those challenging Government climate policies in the courts”

Boswell’s Crowd Justice appeal to fund his legal challenge has so far raised more than £68,000, with donations from 1,500 people.

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