NEWS: Damning speech to MPs on Highways England misuse of evidence, July 4th, 2019
Emma Tristram has been fighting Highways England proposals for the Arundel Bypass for some time now. She led the campaign and took Highways England to court with a Judicial Review. This was successful as Highways England has had to go back to undertake further work before starting the consultation process again.
Emma was asked to give a speech to MP’s on this under the banner of Sense about Science ‘challenges the misrepresentation of evidence in public life’. They had commissioned a poll about the main issues that confront MPs and invited community organisations to send someone to speak for 90 seconds about top evidence issues. Here is Emma’s 90 second speech:
Evidence is so important, especially in big infrastructure projects such as road building.
Highways England misused evidence to push through a terribly damaging new route for the Arundel Bypass in West Sussex. It would severely impact a National Park, Ancient Woodland, two villages, historic parkland, and the Arun watermeadows.
They made this route look far less damaging than it really is. Their consultation was full of errors, with an untrue press release, woodland left off maps, garbled place names, inadequate wildlife surveys, and outright false statements.
They convinced Local Authorities to support this option, with figures for traffic reduction and economic benefit which made it look like the best one. Once they had chosen it as their new Preferred Route, they revised the figures, and its supposed advantages disappeared.
I used evidence to challenge their choice of this option through Judicial Review. The judge who gave permission for my Judicial Review said it was arguable that something went ‘clearly and radically wrong’. Faced with my evidence, Highways England chose to rerun the consultation later this year.
I hope MPs will engage themselves more with the standards of evidence used in decision-making by Highways England. I also hope the Government heeds the latest evidence on Climate Change, imposes a moratorium on new road building, and cancels this scheme.
This is a brief but highly damning account of how Highways England misrepresented and had incomplete information. If ever there was evidence for us to make sure we submit all the information we can to Highways England about the environment, wildlife, heritage data etc. then this is it. Let’s hope MPs were listening!
We need to ensure that none of this is missed out again, so that judgments made in Highways England offices are based on a full picture of our landscape. If you have any questions about submitting information to Highways England please contact us here.
To find out more about the Arundel Bypass proposals and the Judicial Review, click here.
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