The Localism Bill, published today to give local councils more say over planning decisions, could be bad for UK transport infrastructure, warns the Freight Transport Association (FTA). The leading trade body fears that projects that are in the national interest may not be given proper consideration if planning proposals on schemes like rail freight terminals and truck stops are only considered at a local level.
There is a real fear that this Bill will make it harder still for projects that could improve environmental performance, transport efficiency and road safety to be given the ‘greenlight’.
Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Global Supply Chain Policy, said:
"The rejection of recent rail freight terminal applications and the length of time it has taken for port applications to get decisions has shown that there is already an endemic failure in the current system; a more localised one is surely going to make this worse.
"Difficult decisions require objectivity, which is something that this Bill threatens to undermine. To meet our national, environmental objectives and to optimise our transport system, modal shift onto our railways or waterways is a crucial part of our future. We need a mechanism that allows the right decisions to be made, be they about rail terminals, wharves or ports."
The Bill has the potential to hinder the growth of rail freight as one of the greatest challenges to its future is local opposition to intermodal rail freight terminals, this could potentially hurt the efficiency of the UK’s entire transport network. Currently most goods travel to distribution centres, which do not have rail access. It is vital, therefore, that land is made available for suitably-located rail freight terminals. This will in turn have the environmental benefit of taking more lorries off congested, local roads.
Similarly, truck stop provision could be better in the UK, but time and again proposals to build overnight lorry parking facilities are vetoed without being given due consideration. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help lorry drivers who are legally bound by working hours to take allocated rest breaks. Faced with a lack of alternatives, many drivers are forced to stay in poorly-lit places with non-existent facilities, leaving them vulnerable to truck theft and sometimes to the inconvenience of local residents.
"To make it work, transport infrastructure requires a joined-up approach that looks beyond the ‘Not-In-My-Back-Yard’ interests of the few, to those of the whole country.
"FTA will be responding to the Bill at the very highest level to ensure that the knee jerk interests of the few do not outweigh those of the many."