National Networks National Policy Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:19, 26 March 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
approves the National Policy Statement for National Networks, which was laid before this House on 6 March.

It is me again—it is déjà vu all over again. I will be brief in my opening speech. I stand here today as the Minister in the Department for Transport who is responsible for infrastructure planning and delivery, although some of my colleagues handle some of the other key development consent orders in that respect.

The national networks national policy statement, or NNNPS, provides the planning framework for determining applications for nationally significant road, rail and strategic freight interchange projects. These are schemes determined under the process set out in the Planning Act 2008. The NNNPS sets out why we need to develop these networks, and how applications for projects will be assessed. It does not set out locations where national network development will take place, neither is it a transport strategy governing wider transport policies, such as active travel. The existing NNNPS was designated in 2015, and approximately 30 road, rail and SRFI schemes have gained consent since then.

The draft NNNPS was subject to public consultation. Alongside that, the Transport Committee, led by my hon. Friend Iain Stewart, undertook an inquiry into the draft. We have made a number of changes in response to the Committee’s work, and I want to put on the record that I am grateful to the Committee for its careful consideration of all the issues raised through both written and oral evidence. I would like to apologise on the record to the Committee, because our initial response to its report did not include a response to one of its recommendations. Today, I have laid in the House an amended version of the response, which responds to all the recommendations, including the recommendation concerning the application of the NNNPS to other consenting regimes, such as under the Transport and Works Act 1992. The NNNPS already provides guidance to applicants on that point, and we believe that this strikes the right balance.

You will be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we have invested £24 billion in the country’s most important roads through the second road investment strategy, and are committed to the next five-year plan for maintaining and enhancing the network. In Network North, we have recognised the importance of local road infrastructure by providing major increases in funding for the major network programme, with some £900 million extra in the midlands and £1.4 billion extra in the north to support regional connectivity and growth.

Our railways are a vital part of the country’s transport infrastructure, and well-targeted rail investments play a crucial role in growing the economy and meeting the connectivity needs of customers and businesses. We also want to ensure that we support freight in all its forms. Freight trains carry goods worth over £30 billion per year across a range of different commodities—specifically, supporting construction and intermodal flows, which can include customers’ goods.

It is right that we provide a planning policy framework that enables us to deliver projects and investment as quickly as possible. The revised NNNPS does that, and I commend this statement to the House.