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A57 Link Roads Legal Case

16th April 2024

CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire A57 Link Roads Legal Case

In 2022 the trustees of the charity, having sought legal advice, agreed to challenge the decision made by the Secretary of State for Transport (Mark Harper) to consent the A57 Link Roads Scheme – a proposed dual carriageway at Mottram on the eastern edge of Greater Manchester.

Our case had two Grounds: (1) that the Government’s approach of allowing large road schemes to go ahead without assessing the cumulative impact of carbon emissions was unlawful, and (2) that in approving the Link Roads project they had failed to consider alternatives which would avoid harming the Green Belt, the National Park and the climate.

We filed our claim with the High Court in late 2022.

Mrs Justice Thornton heard our claim at the High Court on October 3rd and 4th 2023 and published her verdict on our Ground 2 in late November 2023. She found against us.

The process for Ground 1 on climate emissions was more complicated. Ground 1 was adjourned (neither heard nor dismissed) due to its similarity to the Ground used in another live legal case (the Boswell case). Essentially, we were told (in October 2023) that we would have to wait for the Court of Appeal to hear the Boswell case before our Ground 1 could be heard in the High Court. The Boswell case subsequently failed in the Court of Appeal. The Boswell legal team then decided to take their case to the Supreme Court. We prepared papers for a further stay on our case pending the Supreme Court hearing of Boswell.

However, in March 2024 Mr Justice Holgate (the senior Planning Court Judge) made an order on another road building challenge case (Stonehenge) which applied directly to our case. He refused the application for a further stay in that case on the basis that the Boswell Ground was materially the same as the one that was unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal in Boswell and, because the Planning Court is bound by the Court of Appeal, he could not come to a different conclusion.

Senior legal advisers to the charity recommended that we did not challenge the issue of the stay. Furthermore we were advised that because our Ground 1 was indistinguishable from that in the Boswell Case (and that the High Court in that case had already found against it) it was agreed that there would now be no legal basis upon which to have our Ground 1 heard by the High Court. This is why our Ground 1 was labelled as ‘totally without merit’ – it is the ‘value’ of having the High Court hear a case (ours) indistinguishable from a Ground in the Boswell case (which it had recently found against) which, in legal terminology, is ‘totally without merit’. That terminology does not relate in any way to the value of our having brought the Ground to court in the first place.

With both our Grounds now having failed in the High Court we were left with the option of progressing to the Court of Appeal (to appeal against the High Court verdict). The board of trustees voted against this option.

The A57 Link Roads project is but the start of the ongoing threat to the Peak District National Park. Plans for a bypass of Hollingworth and Tintwistle and dualling of the trunk route through the National Park remain live. We will be seeking to ensure that the future roads programme does not include such schemes. They would do irreparable harm to our most treasured and highly protected landscapes as well as worsen the climate and nature crises. The new duty which requires National Highways to ‘seek to further National Park purposes’ should set a higher bar to progressing such development.

In the shorter term, we remain unconvinced that the A57 Link Roads scheme will solve the problems of chronic road congestion in the Mottram and Glossop area. Modelling prepared for us by transport experts suggests that new roads like this will simply move heavy traffic from one place to another – in this case, from Mottram to Glossop, Hollingworth and Tintwistle where through traffic will increase. We will continue to work with local transport groups to promote alternative low-carbon travel plans that provide viable alternatives to ever more private car journeys.

We are awaiting the final Court Order that will officially bring our legal challenge to an end.

We are very grateful to everyone who supported us in this legal challenge.

In our Centenary year, CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire will continue to campaign for the protection of the landscapes we have been instrumental in safeguarding during our first hundred years. Find out more about the Centenary or support our work to protect the Peak District and South Yorkshire countryside.