National Highways’ plans to improve congestion at three bottlenecks on the A38 around Derby have been stalled by legal challenges.
When Grant Shapps, as transport secretary, signed a development consent order (DCO) for the project in January 2021, opponents claimed environmental regulations had been breach in the planning process and launched a judicial challenge. The High Court agreed and quashed the DCO in July 2021.
Since then, the application has undergone “a thorough redetermination process” resulting in current transport secretary Mark Harper signing a new DCO yesterday, 17th August 2023.
However, this does not mean that construction can start: there is now a six-week period in which parties still concerned about the felling of 100,000 trees or about air pollution, or any other aspect of the project, can lodge an intention to legally challenge the decision.
It will be at least another year before contractors mobilise.
National Highways said: “While we still need to get final approval to start construction, we’ll begin to remobilise and reprogramme the project over the next 12 months. We’ll therefore update customers and stakeholders on when we’ll start construction as soon as possible.”
Bam Nuttall has been waiting years to get going on this and other road projects. It was appointed, alongside Aecom and Mace as part of the Linkconnex consortium, to the Highways England (as it then was) regional delivery partnership framework. It was back in 2018 that Linkconnex was handed four schemes: A38 Derby junctions, M54 to M6 Link (£200m), A27 Arundel bypass (£320m) and A27 Worthing and Lancing improvements (£20m) – none of which have even started yet. The A27 jobs have been pushed back into the next roads investment period (RIS3), which covers 2025 to 2030. A DCO for the M54 to M6 Link road was signed in April 2022 but has still not started and there is no start date in sight on that project, despite the supposed ‘green light’. Preparations are on hold pending further design work and Bam Nuttall has bailed out ( – or been sacked; it’s not clear which).
The three A38 Derby junctions to be upgraded are roundabouts at Kingsway, Markeaton and Little Eaton, making them grade separated to ease traffic movement.
National Highways regional delivery director Anita Prashar said: “The A38 is an important route from Birmingham to the M1 at junction 28. Where it passes through Derby, long distance traffic interacts with a large volume of vehicles making local journeys resulting in congestion and delays. Our upgrade will change that. This vital work will deliver much-needed additional capacity, providing better connectivity for people and businesses and safer journeys for everyone.
“Whilst we still need to get final approval to start construction, we will begin to remobilise and reprogramme the project, which could take a minimum of 12 months.”
Meanwhile National Highways’ website still gives the project’s start date as 2021, with completion in 2024-25. That ship has sailed.