Government plans to build an Oxford-Cambridge motorway over some of the UK’s most biodiverse nature reserves break EU laws and should be put on hold, according to Keith Taylor MEP and a cross-party group of European Parliamentarians.
Local people say they have not been consulted about the project and the Berks, Bucks, Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) have already launched a legal challenge against Highways England, which lobbied hard for the scheme.
Now, in a letter to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the 11 MEPs say: “Ploughing ahead with this expressway project, without first conducting an open and thorough public consultation, sends very worrying signals about whether, despite the commitments it has made, the government will maintain European-wide environmental standards in practice [after Brexit].”
Under EU law – and the Aarhus convention – public consultations and environmental risk assessments are needed before major projects are allowed in sensitive areas.
Mr Taylor MEP has already written to the European Commission asking for the legality of the project to be investigated.
The letters come after the Campaign to Protect Rural England claimed that the one million homes proposed as part of the Expressway project would destroy an area of countryside the size of Birmingham.
"CPRE's latest study reveals the terrifying extent of the impact of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. That the government claims the project represents its commitment to 'protecting the natural environment' is frightening. It is clearer than ever that the project is a monumental disaster and act of environmental sabotage."
"The way this decision has been handled, without any meaningful consultation with the local communities directly impacted by it, appears to be in direct contravention of the UK's international legal obligations under the Aarhus Convention. I have written to the European Commission calling for an investigation into the legality of the project."
"The Expressway itself is a wrongheaded and profoundly irresponsible pursuit that will put more cars on our roads, spewing out toxic fumes, and do so at the expense of our precious environment and climate. All at a cost to the taxpayer of several billion pounds."
"That the planned road will run parallel to a much-needed East-West rail link that has already been downgraded from electric to diesel just adds air pollution insult to environmental injury."
"What we need is a government with a radical vision to overhaul an outdated roadbuilding and housebuilding mentality that is eating up Britain's natural environment and driving the country towards carmageddon."
Mr Taylor, who recently launched 'Outmoded: a call for sustainable mobility in the 21st century', a new publication advocating for sustainable mobility across the South East, added:
"Prioritising accessible and affordable public transport, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure should be a no-brainer: it reduces air pollution and the climate impact of transport by taking polluting cars off our roads, and encourages behaviours that could save our health service billions of pounds every year."
"Despite this, the budget confirms, government roadbuilding handouts continue to outstrip investment in affordable and accessible active and public transport."
"I will continue to stand with campaigners to oppose the Oxford Expressway. I will also stand with residents calling for the electrification of the parallel East-West rail route to be prioritised."
"Greens have a 21st Century vision that sees transport and housing as integrated systems and prioritises well-funded, accessible and affordable low-emission public transport networks, active transport and focuses on understanding how and why people move."