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M1 chaos highlights potential danger of ‘localism’, warns FTA

As restrictions on the M1 continue following a scrap yard fire in Mill Lane last week, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) argues that the disruption caused to businesses and motorists alike would have been avoided entirely if the risk presented from building a potentially flammable site within close proximity to an elevated section of a major motorway had been properly assessed at the planning stage.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, said:
"This incident brings into sharp focus the need for planning decisions to be made with full consideration of the impact that could be made on essential infrastructure. Such decisions should not be made at a purely local level and in splendid isolation. Our concern is that the government’s localism agenda may mean we see the damaging consequences of further poor planning decisions in the future."

Commercial vehicle operators going in and out of London over the weekend will have found alternative routes to make their deliveries, but they would have encountered inevitable delays which will have seen their transport costs increase, along with road congestion. Indeed, a lorry stuck in traffic can cost its operator over £50 per hour.

Bingham continued:
"Logistics is a ‘can do’ sector and no stranger to such things as re-routing trucks at the last minute to circumvent events beyond their control. But the sudden closure of this vital piece of our road network will have cost industry many millions of pounds. While the Highways Agency should be commended for the work it has done in repairing the damage so far, the cost to businesses reliant on an efficient supply chain and on those that provide those essential transport services is too great to ignore."

FTA has already voiced its concerns about the Localism Bill – giving local councils more say over planning decisions – claiming the needs of national transport infrastructure could be subjugated by local, peripheral concerns. Without a joined-up and objective approach to planning, the leading trade body argues, the UK’s ability to do business efficiently and for its economy to recover could be compromised. Aside from granting permission for potentially poor decisions to go ahead, 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 ‘green light’.

Bingham concluded:
"There are some decisions that need to be made at a national level – whether it’s about a truck stop, a rail freight terminal or a potentially hazardous scrap yard. FTA and its members in the International Supply Chain Forum will continue to fight this Bill at the very highest level to ensure that the interests of the few do not outweigh those of the many."

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