The prime minister has set a target of cutting the time it takes to upgrade the UK’s roads by half.
In a speech to the CBI’s annual conference in London today, David Cameron said the government wants to speed up the construction of roads and railways.
He said: “In the ‘50s it took us eight years to design and build the first 50 miles of the M1. Today it can take that long just to widen one section of a motorway. So we are speeding things up.
“Since we came to office we haven’t just announced a load of road and railways schemes, yes – we have actually got diggers on the ground on the A23, the M62, the M4, M5 and M6. What’s more it’s our ambition to cut the time it takes to upgrade our roads in half.”
The prime minister’s speech was also focused on reducing bureaucracy and the amount of consultation on government policies and judicial reviews.
Mr Cameron said: “Consultations, impact assessments, audits, reviews, stakeholder management, securing professional buy-in, complying with EU procurement rules, assessing sector feedback this is not how we became one of the most powerful, prosperous nations on earth.”
The PM called judicial reviews “a massive growth industry in Britain”.
He said: “Back in 1998 there were four and a half thousand applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade. Of course some are well-founded as we saw with the West Coast mainline decision.
“But let’s face it: so many are completely pointless. Last year, an application was around 5 times more likely to be refused than granted.
“We urgently needed to get a grip on this. So here’s what we’re going to do. Reduce the time limit when people can bring cases. Charge more for reviews so people think twice about time-wasting.
“And instead of giving hopeless cases up to four bites of the cherry to appeal a decision, we will halve that to two.”
However law firm DLA Piper associate Emily Williams said the desire to reduce delays to projects caused by judicial review was understandable but it was “hard to see how this might be achieved whilst at the same time complying with EU Law”.
She said: “Unless the prime minister envisages a shorter period within which to bring such legal challenges and a faster track process in the Administrative Court it is difficult at this stage to foresee how a significant reduction in the number of challenges or the time to determine them can be achieved within a timescale that will assist current projects.”
The PM said: “When this country was at war in the 40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution. Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out. As one historian put it, everything was thrown at the overriding purpose of beating Hitler.
“Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of war today and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”
Meanwhile business secretary Vince Cable said he understood the frustration of the business community at the slow speed of progress on infrastructure.
He said: “ Some government decisions have an immediate impact: movement on infrastructure projects and regulatory certainty for energy investors means activity and jobs in the near term.
“I recognise the frustration in the business world that these things are moving slowly.”