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MPs to debate National Networks National Policy Statement following Transport Committee inquiry

25 March 2024

The Government’s new suite of planning regulations that ministers will use to determine ‘nationally significant’ road and rail projects will be debated in the House of Commons on the afternoon of Tuesday, 26 March. 

Transport Committee Chair Iain Stewart MP will make a statement on the revised National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS), as well as ministers and shadow ministers.  

Issues likely to be debated include:  

  • How the Government’s new policies align with commitments to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 
  • Whether the new NNNPS will reduce the risks of legal challenges hampering the delivery of new infrastructure 
  • Whether the policy continues to reflect a “predict and provide” approach to building new infrastructure. 

The revised NNNPS was laid in Parliament on 6 March, the day of the Spring Budget. It was published alongside the Government’s response to a report by the cross-party Transport Committee which scrutinised an earlier draft version of the new NNNPS. 

The new NNNPS will be designated and come into force if MPs approve it at the end of the debate on 26 March. 

How DfT responded to the Committee’s report 

The Transport Committee said the Government should respond to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) recommendation on reviewing its roads programme to ensure that new projects fit within the UK’s carbon budgets. The Government’s response said it will not do so, however it will “ensure that it is in line with its legal obligations relating to Carbon Budgets, net zero, Environment Act 2021 targets”. 

The Committee said the revised NNNPS should clarify what is meant by “residual” carbon emissions to ensure DfT can accurately and precisely assess emissions caused by individual projects. The response said this would not be possible as “this depends on progress with decarbonisation within the whole economy at the moment in time a development consent decision is being taken”. 

The Government agreed to publish its forecasts for congestion on the strategic road network. However it rejected a recommendation to publish information on how it models and forecasts congestion on the network so that its modelling can be independently tested and verified. 

MPs said the Government should demonstrate how the new NNNPS reflects its previous statement that its approach is not to “predict and provide” – building more roads to cater for increased traffic. Witnesses were concerned that doing so would induce further demand, therefore increasing emissions. DfT’s response says that traffic growth is highly likely, and that the government’s “approach to decarbonisation is not to stop people travelling”. 

DfT agreed with the Committee’s recommendation that the NNNPS should be reviewed every five years, to provide an opportunity for the Department to consider the wider policy environment and Government priorities. It also agreed to accept the Committee’s recommendations that wording relating to Sites of Special Scientific Interest should be inserted so as to make its compatibility with biodiversity policy clear, and agreed to clarify the guidance on carbon emission increases that would affect the Government’s ability to meet its statutory carbon budget. 

Further information

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