West Midlands business leaders will back calls today for the Government to speed planning procedures which are putting the brakes on road improvement projects.

The Road Users Alliance, which represents companies involved in road construction and a mixture of business and private road users, will highlight the problem at the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference at London's QEII Centre.

Tim Green, RUA director, will tell business leaders that some road improvements are running two to three years late and at least one in five risk complete cancellation as funds run out.

He will say: "Vital budgets for road improvements are being severely depleted as convoluted planning procedures stall delivery and increase costs."

In the West Midlands, major road projects worth #72.3 million were approved in the region's Local Transport Plan settlements of 2000.

However, just two have been completed, while the original cost estimate has spiralled to #96.66 million.

Jerry Blackett, chairman of the West Midlands Business Transport Group and policy director at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: "Finding a roads solution that opens up the Black Country to the South and North of the country has been bedevilled by endless planning difficulties.

"We are promised that the Black Country Study will identify the solution but whatever this study says - and it has been three years in the making - it will require yet more planning applications."

David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, will call for a 30-year national framework on road-building backed up by "short-term deliverables" along the way.

"Failures in the UK's transport infrastructure are costing UK business #15 billion per year and rising," he said. "One of the biggest barriers to lifting this burden is streamlining our archaic planning system.

"Key projects are being put back for years on end due to serious delays in the planning system. It is simply not acceptable that businesses are forced to suffer as a result of endless red tape.

"We need a national integrated, sustainable transport system."