Decisions delayed on M25 upgrade and M54 to M6 link road due to environmental concerns

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has delayed his planning decisions on two major road schemes worth a combined £450M.

For the third time this year, Shapps has delayed his planning decision on the proposed £100M to £250M upgrade of an interchange where the M25 meets the A3 in Surrey.

Shapps received the examining authority’s report on 12 October 2020 and the current deadline for a decision was 12 November, having already been extended from 12 January 2021 to 12 May 2021 and then to 12 November 2021. The deadline is now extended to 12 May 2022.

The transport secretary has also delayed his decision on the proposed M54 to M6 link road, with the deadline now extended to 21 April 2022.

A written statement by transport minister Andrew Stephenson explains that Shapps has requested more time to assess both National Highways schemes to “allow further consideration of environmental matters”.

The M25/ A3 scheme involves building four new dedicated free-flowing slip lanes that will mean all left-turning traffic can pass through the junction unimpeded by traffic signals.

Carriageways on the existing roundabout will also be elongated and widened to increase capacity for right-turning traffic.

On the M25 the hard shoulders through the junction will be converted to running lanes with emergency refuge areas.

National Highways also plans to widen the A3 to four lanes in each direction between the Ockham Park junction and the Painshill junction, except where the A3 crosses over junction 10, which will stay as two lanes in both directions.

A joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Atkins won the contract build the scheme if it is approved.

The upgrade has been long opposed by campaign group RHS Wisley on environmental grounds.

A statement on RHS' website reads: "The impact of Highways England's proposals would place 44 trees along our boundary with the A3 at risk. The plans being signed off by the Secretary of State would see 17 Grade II Heritage Trees being cut down.

"They would also see 27 trees, including North American redwood species (Sequioadendron giganteum ) and 5 Grade II* Heritage Trees being at risk because the development could adversely affect the health of the trees by undermining root strength.

"Anyone who has seen these magnificent trees in person will tell you of the awe that they bring. We need your voice to ensure we can protect these beautiful trees."

Highways England claims that the upgrade will “reduce congestion, smooth the flow of traffic to improve journey times, support economic growth and new housing within the area [and] improve safety”.

Meanwhile the M54 to M6 link road is valued at £175M-£200M. National Highways claims it is needed to provide additional capacity and relieve traffic congestion on the A460, A449, and A5, providing more reliable journey times for passengers.