Government roads investment 'will unlock sites for hundreds of thousands of homes'

BUDGET 2020: A £27 billion investment in Britain's strategic road network, including funding for the Lower Thames Crossing and a tunnel running past Stonehenge, will 'unlock new areas for housing growth' and pave the way for 'hundreds of thousands' of new homes, the government has said.

The A303 near Stonehenge. Image: Flickr/ David Wilson
The A303 near Stonehenge. Image: Flickr/ David Wilson

Some 34 road upgrades will be started or completed by 1 April 2025, according to the Department for Transport’s (DfT's) second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), which was published alongside the Budget statement

Projects to be funded include a Lower Thames Crossing, described as "the biggest roads project of the 21st century"; upgrades to the A303, including a two-mile long tunnel running past Stonehenge; dualling of the A46 past Newark; and a similar upgrade to the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine highway.

"The projects committed for funding in this document could support the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes," the RIS2 document states. 

"These arise not just from large-scale enhancements, but also many of the individual junctions and widenings, several of which could help unlock ten thousand or more new homes or enable major new business developments."

RIS2 also outlines plans to conduct studies into potential upgrades to the road network in the Central Pennines, the M4 to the Dorset coast, and the overall role of the urban strategic road network.

According to the strategy, highways investment has been planned to align with commitments made from the government’s £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

The Budget announcement included nine allocations from the HIF, totalling £1.1 billion, for projects expected to deliver a total of 70,000 homes in areas including Manchester, South Sunderland and South Lancaster.

Where road upgrades are linked to specific construction projects, developers will be "expected to contribute to scheme costs", the DfT said. "We will continue to explore funding contributions from third parties based on the increase in the value of development land that the road project unlocks," it added.

The RIS2 also reveals that the government has "paused" work on the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

The DfT's first Roads Investment Strategy was published in 2014, outlining £15 billion of investment in highways infrastructure to support projects including enterprise zones and garden cities.

Making his Budget speech yesterday, the chancellor Rishi Sunak was keen to stress the role that highways investment will play in the government’s stated ambition to "level up" the regions.

"Our ambition is truly national," he said, highlighting planned projects including an upgrade to the A417 in the south west, the A428 in the East of England, the A46 in the Midlands; improvements to junctions and highways around Manchester; dualling of the A1 north of Newcastle; and construction of a Pant Llanymynech bypass in Wales.

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