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Summary

Highways England took over responsibility for the strategic road network in April 2015. Section 5.22 of their license stated that they had to set up a Stakeholder Advisory Panel which was to include “environment and safety groups”.

In 2017 they set up a Strategic Planning Advisory Panel billed as a “means of securing views as well as challenge in the company’s work on strategic planning“. It did not however include any non-governmental “environment or safety groups”. The potentially embarrassing topics of safety and litter had been been neatly side stepped.

Detail

Link to license

As you will see from the following extracts I have been campaigning for them to do so and to seek a place on the panel.

E-mail to DfT / HE 17th March 2017

“HE’s License states that they must establish a stakeholder advisory panel. No such panel has, as far as I know, been set up. I raised this with the ORR on 22nd September 2016 but they have yet to respond on this point. Has such a panel been established and, if not, will you instruct HE to set one up? I would welcome the opportunity to participate in it”.

E-mail to DfT 8th August 2017

HE have been established for over 2 years yet I understand they have still to set up a Stakeholder Advisory Panel as specified in their License. Have they been given a deadline to comply on this matter?  I would like to be considered as a member of the panel”.

Reply from DfT 17th December 2017

Highways England has reviewed its existing stakeholder advisory panel arrangements. The current arrangements will be supplemented with a strategic stakeholder advisory panel to advise the Board who are not looking for new members at present’.

Note sent to Roads’ Minister, Jesse Norman MP, on 5th July 2018 to back up points made at my meeting with him of 2nd July

HE has failed to set up a Stakeholder Panel 3 yrs after it was required to do so in its License“.

Reply from DfT on Jesse Norman’s behalf of 14th August 2018

This made no reference to HE’s failure or otherwise to set up a Stakeholder panel – so I assumed that the panel had still not been set up

On 4th June 2019 the issue was taken up in a Parliamentary question by Baroness Randerson who was informed (see below) that the panel had been set up in 2017.

I gathered that about five meetings have taken place although they have now been suspended pending a review by HE of its remit and membership. I therefore submitted a FOI request for details.

I was told ‘We do not operate a Stakeholder Advisory Panel but do operate a Strategic Planning Advisory Panel”. 4 meetings of this panel had been held between October 2017 and November 2018 and the minutes of the first three were provided. No written advice had been provided to the HE Board or sought by it other than what was recorded in the minutes.

These stated that “The purpose of this strategic planning advisory panel is stipulated in the company’s Licence”…. “It was emphasised that this panel is a means of securing views as well as challenge in the company’s work on strategic planning”

I submitted a further FOI request on 14th October 2109. I was provided with a copy of HE’s Strategic planning advisory panel Terms of Reference (version 0.3). This stated that its purpose was to provide:

…. advice to the Board on “issues directly affecting local authorities and communities” and

…. expert advice on issues relevant to the operation of our network, in particular strategic planning and our role in supporting economic growth and housing development as well as providing technical advice and commercial intelligence.

“Potential stakeholders to be invited to become a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel” are listed. There are no groups representing roads users and no non-governmental environment or safety groups on the list as stipulated in the license.

By restricting the panel to strategic planning matters operational issues such as safety and litter have been excluded. Also, contrary to what is stipulated in the License no stakeholders representing non-governmental environmental and safety bodies have been included.

In my view this does not constituent compliance by HE with the terms of their License.

Peter Silverman
Litter – the big Westminster cover up
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