March 2020 UK Project Management Round Up


The Fifth Estate, Bad News for Infrastructure Projects in the Courts, A little Good News and… no BREXIT news



By Miles Shepherd

Executive Advisor & International Correspondent

Salisbury, England, UK




It has been quite difficult to decide what to report this month as the main theme of the past year or so has subsided into the background.  So this is an opportunity to play catch up and see what has been happening in the wider project world.  As the month closes, there are two main themes dominating the news: Coronavirus and legal challenges to projects.  Hopefully, there will be some Good News to off-set the less good and I’ll save that for the end.


It always depresses me that the Fifth Estate (or the Great British Press) seem to find bad news wherever they look.  This means the papers and TV News is rarely cheerful.  They can be excused, though, for seeing serious bad news as the Court of Appeal ruled that the plans for the Heathrow Extension are unlawful.  They reasoned that the UK Government treaty commitments had been ignored.  The UN Paris agreement commits the British government to limiting activity that could increase global temperatures.  The judges claimed that the refusal to consider these commitments properly was “legally fatal.  The Appeal Court said that the government acted unlawfully in 2018 when it failed to take the Paris Agreement into account in drawing up the airports national policy statement — which in effect granted Heathrow outline planning permission.

Needless to say, anyone who had lost an appeal recently now believes that a case can be made to re-open planning cases.  The newspapers zoomed in on airport expansion plans at Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Bournemouth airport.  The Times reported that the four gas-fired turbines at Drax power station in North Yorkshire approved by the government in October is under threat because the government overturned a decision by its planning inspectorate. A High Court challenge is under way.

Drax Power Station (Image: Industry Europe)

Other threatened projects that could be challenged on the same grounds, include the a route between Oxford and Cambridge, the A303 Stonehenge tunnel and the Lower Thames Crossing, a 14-mile motorway and tunnel to the east of the Dartford Crossing that is the biggest scheme of its kind in decades.

Interestingly, although the court made no judgment on the merits of Heathrow expansion or whether a third runway could ultimately comply with environmental law.  The rationale is that to have done so would raise the spectre of political interference by judges who are supposed to be fully independent of political and financial influences.  Recently, High Court and Appeal Court judges have been accused of just this sort of bias.  The fear is that a petulant Government could start appointing judges in a similar way to Supreme Court Judges are appointed in USA.

From a project perspective, the whole of the Government’s infrastructure plan is under threat.  According to Jonathan Church, a climate lawyer at Client Earth; “This sets a precedent . . . to consider the Paris Agreement. The government must start taking climate change into account when considering major projects.”  Not even HS/2 is safe and is just as controversial as the Heathrow Expansion.  Adam Marshall, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that the third runway was an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and that hundreds of companies were already depending on it.



To read entire report, click here


How to cite this report: Shepherd, M. (2020).  March 2020 UK Project Management Roundup, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue III, March.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PMWJ91-Mar2020-Shepherd-UK-project-management-roundup-Report.pdf



About the Author


Miles Shepherd

Salisbury, UK




Miles Shepherd is an executive editorial advisor and international correspondent for PM World Journal in the United Kingdom. He is also managing director for MS Projects Ltd, a consulting company supporting various UK and overseas Government agencies, nuclear industry organisations and other businesses.  Miles has over 30 years’ experience on a variety of projects in UK, Eastern Europe and Russia.  His PM experience includes defence, major IT projects, decommissioning of nuclear reactors, nuclear security, rail and business projects for the UK Government and EU.   Past Chair and Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM), Miles is also past president and chair and a Fellow of the International Project Management Association (IPMA).  He was recently a Director for PMI’s Global Accreditation Centre and is immediate past Chair of the ISO committee developing new international standards for Project Management and for Program/Portfolio Management.  He was involved in setting up APM’s team developing guidelines for project management oversight and governance.  Miles is based in Salisbury, England and can be contacted at miles.shepherd@msp-ltd.co.uk.

To view other works by Miles Shepherd, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/miles-shepherd/.