New battle over £250 million A38 Derby upgrade decision

The A38 in Derby Credit: BPM Media

A decision on whether a major £250 million upgrade project can go ahead on the A38 in Derby is to be made in the courts for a second time in May.

National Highways has confirmed in a statement a new court date has been pencilled in for Tuesday, May 14, which will determine if the project on one of Derby’s busiest roads can go ahead.

The firm says it is “still committed” to delivering the “essential” £250m road scheme, which involves expanding the road from four to six lanes around the three junctions at Little Eaton, Markeaton and Kingsway and constructing flyovers and underpasses.

But campaigners say the project should not go ahead.

In August last year Transport Minister Mark Harper gave the A38 scheme the go-ahead.

But in December at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mrs Justice Jefford granted the case permission to go to trial after hearing arguments from both Richard Buxton Solicitors, representing the Stop the A38 Expansion campaign group, as well as from the Department for Transport and National Highways.

The Stop the A38 Expansion group believe the project is a waste of public money.

Campaigners say the multimillion-pound works will increase carbon emissions, increase traffic and destroy thousands of trees including centuries-old ones at Markeaton Park.

They say the A38 expansion is “not the right solution” to alleviate congestion on one of Derby’s main routes.

National Highways says the legal debate surrounding the A38 project is based on an “economic assessment” and “alleged failures in the application process”.

On the Stop the A38 Crowd Funding page, campaigners say: “One of our legal challenge grounds is that the A38 was approved with an over four-year-old and secretive economic assessment that didn’t include recent changes in treasury guidance or the impacts of inflation or carbon pricing on the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of the scheme.

“We’ve always said the A38 expansion is a waste of public money, especially during the cost of living crisis and climate crisis.

"The £250 million should be invested in public transport and active travel to help tackle these crises.

“Instead, the Government is prioritising the interests of private companies who plan to profit from the increased road capacity by building even more car-dependent developments on greenfield sites near the A38.

"This is public money being used to line the pockets of private businesses.”

This is not the first time the A38 project has been discussed at length at the High Court.

In 2021 the scheme was granted approval by the Government before the consent order was officially quashed by the High Court in 2021 following a successful legal challenge regarding climate concerns.

National Highways said it would know the final decision between six to eight weeks after the court date in May.

A statement from National Highways on its website says: “The next hearing on ground one (economic assessment) is expected on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

"We should be informed of the outcome of this hearing six to eight weeks afterwards.

“Due to the outstanding legal challenge, we’ve been unable to fully remobilise the project team or commence the process of appointing a new contractor for this scheme.

"We understand this may be disappointing for you to hear as it will inevitably delay our programme for the project further.

"We’re still committed to delivering these essential upgrades to the three junctions along the A38 through Derby. We’ll continue to update you as we know more."