In 2020, a series of three linked legal challenges were brought by environmental NGO Transport Action Network (“TAN”) related to UK's road building policies. TAN argued the UK government acted unlawfully by not suspending and reviewing its ‘National Policy Statement on National Networks’, given what TAN claimed were significant changes in climate law and policy since the policy’s designation in 2014. The policy statement sets the strategy for the UK’s road building programme. The government has powers to suspend and review policy statements under the Planning Act 2008, and must take into account certain criteria when doing so.
TAN began with a series of pre-action letters, available on its website. They included requests to the government to suspend and review the policy statement in light of, amongst other matters, the new statutory target of net zero UK emissions by 2050. In October 2020, the government decided a review was not appropriate. This resulted in TAN’s first claim for judicial review (CO/4575/2020). That claim was then stayed as the government had stated that it would reconsider whether a review was appropriate.
In February 2021, the government decided, for a second time, a review was not appropriate. This resulted in TAN’s second claim for judicial review, issued in April 2021 (CO/1482/2021). However, that claim became theoretical when the government made a fresh decision, in July 2021, to conduct a review, partly because of the increased stringency of climate change targets and policy.
Nonetheless, the government declined to exercise its statutory power to suspend the policy statement pending its review.
This resulted in TAN’s third claim for judicial review, issued in September 2021 (CO/3011/2021), specifically challenging the decision not to suspend the policy statement. The High Court refused permission for that claim to proceed to a full hearing (firstly on the papers, and then following a permission hearing), bringing the legal challenges to an end.