On 17 July 2023, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs published its Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3). The report, which covers the next five-year period to 2028, sets out the actions that central and local governments should take in order to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Unfortunately the report fails to offer workable provisions for protecting England’s roads and motorways from future adverse weather conditions, an oversight which has attracted a range of critical attention. Read on to find out more about the details of the report and the various critiques that have been raised.
NAP3 Overlooks The Needs Of Road Networks
For anyone involved in managing local road networks, the report makes disappointing reading. Local authorities manage 9% of England’s A roads, which carry around one-third of all traffic, whilst locally managed B and C roads make up around 28% of all roads in England. These roads are vital to every aspect of life and are the lifeblood of the economy, yet NAP3 has no concrete plans on how we can safeguard them in the face of changing climate conditions.
Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change – such as the intensification of rainfall – continue to cause huge problems for local authorities. Kent County Council was the latest authority to come under fire, along with its contractors, for its failure to meet its own key performance indicators (KPIs) on pothole repair. Weather conditions, quite rightly, were cited as a major challenge.
In response, one opportunist opposition politician was quoted in the local press as saying: “You can’t just keep blaming the weather. We always have weather!”. This statement must be quite infuriating for those in charge, as it ignores the fact that huge downpours and flooding can have a disproportionate impact on potholes and the general road condition.
Criticisms From The Climate Change Committee
The lack of direction in NAP3 was particularly disappointing given the criticism that the Government received on its predecessor, NAP2. These critiques were summarised in a March 2023 report to Parliament by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which reads:
“The second National Adaptation Programme has not adequately prepared the UK for climate change. Our assessment has found very limited evidence of the implementation of adaptation at the scale needed to fully prepare for climate risks facing the UK across cities, communities, infrastructure, economy and ecosystems.”
The CCC concludes that while there are credible plans in place for the strategic road network, plans for the local road network are insufficient. In terms of delivery and implementation, both the strategic and local road networks were deemed to have made mixed progress. The CCC also notes that while local road networks are likely to face greater impacts from extreme weather, we don’t even have the information we need to start planning properly.
A Lack Of Detail & Funding Oversights
Perhaps the most galling part of the new NAP3 is the statement that: “ongoing investment in the road network is essential to make existing and future infrastructure resilient to climate change impacts.”
Notably, there is no information about where the funding for such investment might come from. Instead, NAP3 promises more consultations on a new “transport adaptation strategy”, as well as on a “framework for local authorities to implement extreme weather recommendations”. The results from these consultations aren’t mooted until the end of 2024 – where this could easily be set back until 2025.
We are already ten years on from the first National Adaptation Programme, and it feels like we are going nowhere fast. With no direction, vision or investment, local authorities are left to bear the brunt of costs and criticism.
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