Hit the Road Jack

The usual mixture of triumph, alarm and gnashing of teeth greeted the publication of the Government’s Roads Investment Strategy earlier this week. Strong reaction to the laying of an additional 1,300 miles of tarmac was heard from both sides, with the media’s focus naturally gravitated towards the potential impact on one of the world’s most iconic prehistoric monuments.

A volatile package 

The debate is far more extensive though, and indeed nuanced, than a simple ‘car driver versus environmental-and-archaeological-damage-at-Stonehenge’ conundrum. It involves a dilapidated strategic road network creaking under the weight of 21st Century demand, a booming population and significant advances in technology. Throw in a plethora of irreplaceable habitats, endangered species, greenbelt and air quality concerns and what the Government described as the “biggest investment in our road network since the 1970s” becomes a volatile package.

For well over a year as this road building package has begun to emerge, we have been lobbying the Department for Transport (DfT) on behalf of woods and trees. Our position is clear: irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland should not fall victim to asphalt. Recently we joined forces with a wide array of environmental and transportation organisations, from National Express to the Ramblers, to press the DfT to examine alternative solutions, urging the Government to consider a green retrofit programme.

Many ancient woods run alongside the 127 road schemes announced. It is inconceivable all will survive the proposals.

Many ancient woods run alongside the 127 road schemes announced. It is inconceivable all will survive the proposals intact.


Some progress has been made. Not least, in that the Strategy requires the soon-to-be-established Strategic Highways Company (replacing the Highways Agency) to demonstrate how it will deliver ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity. Thanks to our pressure, supported by others, the Strategy goes further, with an aspiration of net biodiversity gain by 2040.

‘Green’ spending is also promised

Green spending is also promised. For retrofitting the existing network, £300 million has been earmarked. A further £100million is laid aside for air quality, and an Environment Fund has £300million allocated; this includes £100million for landscape and biodiversity. ’Landscape’ in this sense isn’t just about the natural environment but also our built heritage. We should also note that the ‘Environment Fund’ includes monies (£75m) for dealing with noise pollution like noise barriers and resurfacing. While welcome these figures are small drops in the overall £15 billion strategic roads ocean.

We know from experience that the “environmental protection” message only goes so far in development circles. As we go through the detail (often lacking) of the 127 schemes announced, we are seeing areas of ancient woods and trees directly in the path of the bulldozers. I’ll post more on these soon.

Over £15 billion is being spent to deliver the new Roads Investment Strategy. We are pushing for a green retrofit programme.

Over £15 billion is being spent to deliver the new Roads Investment Strategy. We are pushing for a green retrofit programme to limit the impact on our natural environment.

Our work continues and you can help 

These proposals need intelligent and careful thinking as they have the potential to cause enormous damage. So our work continues, to persuade all those in power to understand that once gone, our ancient woods really are gone forever. The Strategy itself is part of the Infrastructure Bill, something we are also working on.

We’re looking at the most effective way you can play your part, too. In the meantime, watch out for future blogs about how this Strategy progresses, the specific schemes and also about the changes to the Highways Agency, coming up and make sure you keep supporting our Enough is Enough campaign demanding greater protection for our ancient woods and trees.


About Oliver Newham

Senior Campaigner Ancient Woodland
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Conservation, England, Protection, Woods Under Threat, WoodWatch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hit the Road Jack

  1. Peter Kyte says:

    The problem is that politicians only think in terms of economic growth and not quality of the environment or health of the population. More road building does not solve anything, the new roads are full to capacity within a year.

  2. Derek West says:

    More roads ,more cars ,more pollution,loss of vital habitat,rich pickings for the road builders and developers,when is this madness going to end?.

  3. Ash says:

    Do you know how many people have signed the “Enough is Enough” campaign? How can we reach more people? I sometimes think that our ship (planet Earth) is sinking. No matter how much we go on about the environment, businesses & the big corporations just carry on as if we don’t exist.

    • Oliver Newham says:

      Thanks very much for the comments with this, much appreciated. Ash – We’re just under 58,000 people with Enough is Enough which is really encouraging but as you say we do want as many people to join in as possible. Anything you can do to promote it via social media your end is very welcome and we will keep pushing it our end as well.

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