UPDATE: August 7th, 2019
As climate crisis grows, are key environmental groups being shut out of expressway talks?
In the No Expressway Group meeting with Highways England (HE) on 30th July, NEG asked about Highways England’s use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), as reported on the BBC News website and on BBC South Today.
Highways England’s Project Director for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Project, Matt Stafford, talked openly about NDAs, in stark contrast to Highways England’s refusal to even confirm their existence in response to NEG’s Freedom of Information request. He confirmed that for local authorities, HE requested these were signed so they could talk about potential routes and if these were "viable and buildable".
Highways England asks Local Authorities to sign NDAs to be "responsible" about potential impact on land values and to enable local authorities time to capture uplift in land values
But why, when HE has been talking about lots of different potential routes, didn’t it ask environmental experts such as RSPB and BBOWT to sign NDA’s and talk in confidence?
Matt Stafford said that the submissions already provided by BBOWT/RSPB provided enough information last year, therefore in HE’s judgement no follow up was required.
The RSPB told NEG that it has had no contact from HE since it made its initial submission regarding preference of corridor in April 2018. The RSPB stated in it’s submission that Corridor B was the most environmentally damaging corridor. Highways England selected Corridor B as its “preferred corridor”. How much notice is HE taking of environmental experts?
So, what about new information along this corridor or discussions around wildlife corridors and living landscapes? Any route could impact on or go through and have a massive impact on key environmental corridors or living landscapes.
Can HE make that assessment on their own? Why not contact the experts?
Priorities for the Environment
Highways England stated that all sites of environmental importance (such as SSSIs and those identified for future protection) had been taken into consideration in the Ox-Cam Expressway project. However, HE said that its priorities for these areas are 1) Avoid 2) Mitigate 3) Compensate.
Hence any environmentally significant site could be included in a possible route.
See this article for how BBOWT are currently battling over mitigation steps on HS2!
Given the government announced a climate emergency, shouldn’t the Department for Transport and those working for them, such as Highways England, follow through on making this a higher priority in everything they do?
Make sure you are first to hear any news on route options and consultation by emailing OxfordToCambridgeExpressway@highwaysengland.co.uk to register as a stakeholder.
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