On 19 March 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, granted consent for Lancashire County Council’s Heysham to M6 Link Road scheme, a new 4.8 km dual carriageway in Lancashire that will complete a connection from Heysham to an upgraded junction 34 of the M6. This is the first highway application to be decided under the Planning Act 2008. The decision letter can be found here, along with the DCO, which was drafted by Bircham Dyson Bell.
The second application under the Planning Act for a highways scheme was made by Luton Borough Council for its M1 Junction 10 Grade Separation scheme, the purpose of which is to reduce congestion and unlock growth and development in Luton. The application for consent is currently under examination by the Planning Inspectorate, with a decision expected no later than 15 November 2013.
At the date of writing no other DCO applications have been submitted for highway schemes, but there are a growing number of schemes closing in on that milestone.
The Highways Agency is now engaged in the pre-application process for three DCO schemes. The most advanced of these is the A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Scheme, on which pre-application consultation has been undertaken. Following behind this is the A160 Immingham Improvements Scheme in North East Lincolnshire, and the A63 Castle Street Improvements Scheme in Hull. The Highways Agency has recently applied to the Planning Inspectorate for its opinion on the scope of the environmental assessments to be undertaken for these two projects.
There are now five local authority DCO schemes actively engaged in the pre-application phase:
- Central Bedfordshire Council’s Woodside Connection, which would link Woodside Industrial Estate to proposed Junction 11A on the M1;
- the Morpeth Northern Bypass Scheme, being promoted by Northumberland County Council and linking to the A1;
- Norfolk County Council’s Norwich Northern Distributor Road, a 20km dual carriageway linking the A1067 to the A47;
- Gloucestershire County Council’s Elmbridge Transport Scheme, which involves works on the A40; and
- Cornwall Council’s A30 Temple to Higher Carblake Improvement Scheme, which would alleviate a notorious congestion hotspot on Bodmin Moor by upgrading a 4.5km section of single carriageway to dual carriageway.
With changes imminent to the thresholds for DCO schemes (discussed elsewhere in this newsletter), the latter scheme is of interest because it concerns the upgrade of a trunk road but is being promoted by a local authority rather than the Highways Agency. It remains to be seen whether such schemes will remain within the scope of the revised thresholds for highways DCO schemes. In any event, given that all of the above local authority DCO schemes are substantially into the process, it is likely that they would be permitted to continue under the DCO regime, even if the proposed changes render them below or outside of the relevant thresholds.
More information about these schemes can be found on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.