Grant Shapps has delayed making planning decisions for two more major schemes on the strategic road network.
In a Written Ministerial Statement on behalf of the transport secretary, Department for Transport (DfT) minister of state Andrew Stephenson told MPs that it had ‘been necessary to extend the deadlines for decisions’ for the M25 Junction 28 Improvement project and the A1 Northumberland – Morpeth to Ellingham Improvements ‘to allow for further consideration of environmental matters’.
Mr Stephenson noted that under the Planning Act 2008, the secretary of state is required to make his decision within three months of receipt of the Examining Authority’s report unless exercising the power to announce a new deadline.
The M25 Junction 28 Improvement project would create a new two-lane loop road with a hard shoulder for traffic travelling from the M25 northbound carriageway onto the A12 eastbound carriageway towards Essex.
Mr Shapps received the Planning Inspectorate’s report on 16 September and the deadline for a decision was 16 December but has been extended to 16 May 2022.
The A1 Northumberland – Morpeth to Ellingham Improvements comprises the widening of approximately 20.6km of the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham with approximately 14.5km online widening and approximately 6.1km new offline highway.
Mr Shapps received the Planning Inspectorate’s report on 5 October and the current deadline for a decision was 5 January 2022, which has now been extended to 5 June 2022.
Mr Stephenson said the DfT ‘will also endeavour to issue decisions ahead of the deadlines above wherever possible’, adding that the decision to set new deadlines is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to give development consent for the two applications.
Responding to the delay to the M25 scheme, National Highways said it was committed to delivering the improvements and remained confident that its proposals would deliver much needed additional capacity.