|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Raynsford : If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that the byelaws were not intended to be made for the control of pollution. May I refer him to schedule 3, which lists the purposes for which byelaws may be made and which includes at least three paragraphs that seem to be directly related to pollution ? Paragraph 5 deals with the prevention of nuisances, which have always been interpreted as pollution. Paragraph 13 deals with the control of noise, which again is a pollutant. Paragraph 24 relates to the removal of rubbish and sewage, which is certainly a pollutant. I had understood that the byelaws would at least be concerned with such pollutants. I was somewhat surprised that he indicated that they were not a matter for the byelaws.
Mr. Hughes : The hon. Gentleman is right. I hope that the record will show that I said that, in general terms, the byelaws are not intended to deal with pollution. He is right--noise, nuisance and specific forms of rubbish are in the
Column 1263schedule and so, for example, leaving rubbish bags out and industrial dumping of rubbish will be governed. It is not intended, however, that general anti-pollution legislation should be made under byelaws. Air pollution and water pollution are governed by the general law of the land.
I was trying earlier to assure the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar that the people have the right to challenge air and water pollution by a local firm. They do not need the National Rivers Authority or anyone else to take a local discharger of polluting materials to court. The hon. Lady, the hon. Member for Greenwich or I and anyone else could do that. The hon. Member for Greenwich is right--some express purposes are included in the Bill and, in a wide sense, noise and nuisance are a form of pollution.
The hon. Lady dealt with the endowment when power is handed over from the docklands corporation to successor authorities. I am told that surveys have been conducted into the condition of various parts of the dock estate in Tower Hamlets, as well as in Newham and Southwark. The local authority in Tower Hamlets has received all such surveys--I trust that the information that I have been given on that is correct--and negotiations are taking place in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark on the succession. Those in Southwark are the most advanced.
It would be impossible to hand over control to an authority that was unwilling to receive such powers unless a deal were struck and another quango were set up, which the Government could tell to take over the body. This is an important matter and may deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Greenwich. I am instructed that there is no intention that another quango will be set up to replace the docklands corporation. The hon. Member for Greenwich says, "Thank God for that".
Mr. Spearing : Although we are on Third Reading, questions remain. Obviously, a residual authority is required to tie up the ends--one was required with the Greater London council. Some coherent, public authority will be needed to manage dock areas, whether they be the west or the south, the Greenland dock or the Royal docks. The Royal docks management authority has been mooted. Surely that will be an offshoot of the borough council and not a quango.
Mr. Hughes : The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue. I am not seeking to read the mind of Government or that of the corporation, but the prospective successor authorities include in some places the local authority--that is certainly the intention in Southwark and I know that the matter is being negotiated this year. It could be a private owner, something that I understand is being debated in some areas north of the river ; or it could be a community trust ; and there may well be other agencies such as that to which the hon. Gentleman alluded.
My point is that, unless the successor authorities are the creatures of Government and the Government can tell them what to do, they will not-- unless they are mad--take on the responsibility of enforcing the quality-of -life requirements in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark unless someone gives them the money to do so. Therefore, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and for Bow and Poplar need to ensure that the necessary deal is done. I am sure that the hon. Lady's local authority and Newham and Southwark local councils will also be active in ensuring that it is.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms) asked what would happen to the byelaw-making powers after the corporation has gone. The answer is that they will remain--their life will be much longer than that of the corporation. If the Bill is passed, the corporation's successor authorities will be able to change byelaws, but those byelaws will last longer than the corporation.
In response to the Minister's points, I must point out that the Bill has not been before both Houses for an excessively long time. It was in another place from January to December 1993 and has been before this House since December, which is a relatively short time for a private Bill.
The hon. Member for Newham, South spent a few minutes talking about the nature of the Bill. I suppose that, after all these debates and all these words, it is only an enabling Bill after all. However, I hope that even so the House will give it a Third Reading.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn-- [Mr. Patnick.]
Sir George Gardiner (Reigate) : I have been a Member of Parliament long enough to remember when between junctions 8 and 10 there was no M25 at all. When its opening was delayed because the concrete surface cracked, there was considerable impatience among my constituents, so the partial opening in 1985 was greatly welcomed. It linked up with the further section to junction 7, and so took a great deal of heavy traffic from the A25, weaving its way--to the detriment of our environment--through the towns of Reigate and Redhill and the villages in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth).
However, no sooner was this section of the motorway in use than complaints rolled in about the noise generated by its brushed concrete surface. They came not only from those living within a 300 m band on either side, such as the populous Merstham estate and the relatively rural area of Mogador to the south and the nearer reaches of Walton-on-the-Hill to the north, but from whole communities beyond, which complained of the constant whine, or hum, from the motorway. Their case is well documented in letters to me from Tadworth's local councillor, John Chiles. As the volume of traffic using the motorway has increased over the years, so too has the constant background whine, day and night.
There were public demands for the concrete to be replaced by tarmac, which everyone judged to be quieter. At first, the Department of Transport claimed that there was no appreciable noise
difference--brushed concrete just seemed louder to those driving over it, officials claimed. But that argument did not hold water for long, and it is now generally recognised that porous asphalt produces less noise than hot rolled asphalt, and far less noise than a brushed concrete surface.
At the risk of using technical language, I must get this point on record. The use of porous asphalt, as compared with brushed concrete, achieves a reduction of 6 decibels in dry road conditions and a reduction of l0 decibels in wet road conditions. In human subjective hearing terms, a 100 decibel reduction would be perceived as being half as loud. That is the penalty that those living nearby have to pay for the use of a brushed concrete surface. Small wonder that the call to switch to porous asphalt is growing all the time. In this debate, I am concerned with noise pollution, but there are other advantages in using porous asphalt. For drivers using the motorway, it decreases spray production in wet weather, cuts down glare, and decreases the risk of aquaplaning. All these are road safety factors, which I know loom large in the mind of my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic. Porous asphalt is also increasingly being used in a wide range of climates in continental Europe. Yet in Britain its considerable advantages seem not yet to have been accepted.
So what is the argument against using porous asphalt ? The principal argument over the years has been that it is much more expensive than brushed concrete. As recently as 10 June this year, the chief executive of the Highways Agency claimed to me in a letter that porous asphalt
"is a more expensive type of road surfacing".
Yet that myth had already been exploded by my hon.
Column 1266Friend the Minister himself, in a written answer to a question from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) on 7 March 1994, which is recorded at column 1 of the Official Report . Asked to compare the cost per mile of surfacing a four-lane motorway with porous asphalt with that of surfacing it with concrete, my hon. Friend replied that the approximate cost per mile of laying a typical concrete road was £1,750,000, and of laying porous asphalt only £345,000. In other words, porous asphalt is more than five times cheaper. I hope that by now that information has filtered down to the Highways Agency.
In fact, the case that porous asphalt is quieter has already been accepted by my hon. Friend's Department, yet, because of the mythical "high cost" factor, its use has been authorised only for sections of the motorway that pass through highly populated areas. Thus, the use of porous asphalt has been agreed near the more densely populated Ashtead in Mole Valley, and a short stretch alongside Merstham in my own constituency. Unless a change is announced by my hon. Friend tonight, those living within audible reach of the remaining sections will continue to suffer from the brushed concrete surface. Yet all that section will shortly be expanded from three lanes in each direction to four. That will be with the blessing of Surrey county council, and indeed with my blessing, too. What a marvellous opportunity the widening presents to scrap the concrete surface altogether and replace it with quieter--and cheaper--porous asphalt. The Highways Agency recently announced its proposal to widen the M25 between Sevenoaks--junction 5--and junction 7, with the M23. I understand that no concrete at all is to be used on that section. The Department has also decided to replace concrete with porous asphalt on a 12 km section of the M23 south of its interchange with the M25. I welcome that decision, but ask how it can be squared with a decision not to lay porous asphalt over the sections of the M25 with which I am concerned.
The total number of houses within the 300 m band over that 12 km section of the M23 is 271, which works out at a density of 23 houses per km. Let us compare that with the sections of the M25 between junctions 8 and 10, which under present plans are not to have porous asphalt. We find that the density of houses per kilometre is identical--23. Thus, the rationale for providing porous asphalt is the same for the M25 as it is for that section of the M23.
Even more telling is the fact that, when that density of houses along the section of the M23 which is to be given a porous asphalt surface is compared with the density of homes which are not benefiting, so far, from porous asphalt between junctions 7 and 8, we find that the density of homes in the 300 m band is 80 properties per kilometre as compared with 23. Thus, the case for giving the noise benefit deriving from porous asphalt to that stretch is overwhelming.
I can understand my hon. Friend setting his face against the logic of the case if there was no immediate question of rebuilding the highway, but that is not the case. The motorway must be reconstructed anyway to provide four lanes. So, in the interests of all those residents, not to mention the thousands who live just beyond the 300 m band, I urge my hon. Friend to seize this opportunity and to make a major contribution towards easing the level of noise pollution emanating from that section of the M25.
Column 12679.50 pm
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (Surrey, East) : I congratulate my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) on securing this debate, and also thank him for enabling me to make a brief speech.
He has chosen to focus on the widening proposal for a section of the M25 between junctions 7 and 10. A small part of that stretch falls in my constituency. I have corresponded with my hon. Friend the Minister over the concerns raised by the White Hill residents association and others, who have already argued for the use of porous asphalt to protect their homes from the increased noise which will occur as a result of the widening scheme.
A much greater number of my constituents are concerned with the Highways Agency's proposals for the stretch between junctions 5 and 6. My hon. Friend will know that a number of local representatives are seeking a meeting with him to discuss their concerns. For these residents, and for those, of course, who live between junctions 7 and 10, there are many anxieties--air pollution, light pollution, the safety implications of narrower lanes, surface water contamination, and the effect on side roads of newly generated traffic. But by far the greatest concern is the prospect of even higher levels of noise intrusion.
When the M25 was first proposed, the Department of Transport said that, if the bunds and noise barriers were not good enough, they would be expanded and extended. Although traffic flows and noise are much higher than originally envisaged, with a daily traffic flow of 110,000 vehicles against a design capacity of 79,000, nothing has been done.
To make matters worse, although local people are already suffering from a level of noise which many find unacceptable, they can expect a further 50 per cent. increase in traffic, with seriously inadequate noise protection.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate : the widening of the motorway presents an excellent opportunity for noise levels to be restored to those which were expected when the road was built. Higher bunds and noise barriers, together with porous asphalt, would achieve that, and, in the process, they would restore the faith of my constituents in the Department.
I pay a sincere tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister, and to his officials, who worked so closely with local people when dealing with the widening of the M23. As my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate has said, it has been found possible to introduce porous asphalt throughout the length of the stretch of that motorway which is being widened.
The M25, of course, is a far busier, much noisier motorway. It affects a far larger number of homes, yet there are no plans at all to lay porous asphalt at present, as I understand it, on any of the stretch of the motorway which runs through my constituency. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to reflect on that and to consider the great concern and hostility among my constituents.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key) : I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) on initiating the debate tonight. I am grateful that he has given me the opportunity to explain some of the finer points of porous asphalt and just how much my officials in the Department of Transport
Column 1268and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I mind about the quality of life of people who have to live near roads. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) for his kind remarks about the care with which my officials have worked with local people on the widening of the M23. I hope that, after my words tonight, he will feel a little more reassured about the M25. We shall see.
I fully understand the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate, who has spoken so powerfully on behalf of his constituents who are affected by noise from the M25. I recognise fully how distressing traffic noise can be, especially when a new road is built through an otherwise quiet area-- the area which my hon. Friend represented when he was first elected to the House. Noise can be an abomination. I live in the depths of the Wiltshire countryside and, ironically, the noise from the trunk road that passes my bedroom window is considerably greater than the noise in central London. That is not a common perception.
We must, however, face up to the facts. The M25 is the busiest road in the country. It is essential for both the national and the local economy. It connects all the major radial routes to London, the southern ports, the airports and the channel tunnel. Congestion on parts of the motorway is encouraging traffic back into towns and villages around the motorway, bringing pollution and noise and making the roads more dangerous.
If nothing is done to improve the capacity of the motorway to take the increased traffic, those towns and villages will suffer even more from traffic trying to avoid motorway congestion. That would cause a return to the conditions which the motorway was built to relieve. Of course I understand that my hon. Friend's constituents do not see it that way, but when I travel the country I realise that, from a national perspective, the M25 is seen as the London bypass. It is therefore important for the economic well-being of the country that we ensure that the bypass is up to standard and able to support the wealth-creating sectors of our economy. Roads and villages that are quiet now will increasingly become rat runs-- which can only be bad for residents, pedestrians, local motorists, businesses, and of course the environment and everyone's health and safety. It is to help to stop that happening that we propose improvements.
The section of the motorway between junctions 7 and 8 which runs through my hon. Friend's constituency is currently dual three lanes. It was designed to carry up to 79,000 vehicles per day. Peak-time flows are currently about 110,000 vehicles per day. The case for widening this very busy stretch speaks for itself.
The widening which started in March this year is to dual four lanes and is within the existing highway boundaries. Hard shoulders will be provided over most of the length. The cost of the works is about £45 million. The opportunity is also being taken to replace the existing yellow lighting through junction 7 with the glare-reducing lanterns which keep light spillage within the highway boundary. That type of lighting will also be used for the remainder of the stretch, for lighting is also a serious pollutant, particularly to those who live in the countryside. Fortunately, technology is helping us, and we shall take full advantage of it, by using a more friendly kind of light and a better-designed light fixture, which will allow those
Column 1269who prefer the darkness of the countryside to have a better chance of enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside in the darkness if they so wish.
Where possible, the existing landscape is to be retained and improved. Large areas of additional planting are proposed. Planting will be with indigenous species and designed to blend the scheme visually, and ecologically, into its surroundings. As both my hon. Friends have vividly described, the main concerns of the residents following the public consultation centred on the existing noise from the motorway and the likelihood of it increasing with the addition of more traffic lanes. Extensive additional acoustic fences were included in the widening proposals, and the residents and the local councils considered that further measures were required, especially in the Merstham area. The proposed level of mitigation was reviewed and enhanced noise mitigation measures were announced in the decision letter issued in July last year. The enhancements include more than 2 kilometres of additional acoustic fences and raising the height of some of the existing ones.
Once upon a time, I was but an innocent motorist. I thought that a road was a road, and that the road surface was the road surface ; now I know differently--it is the pavement. I now know that road surfaces matter a great deal. I shall address some of the technical arguments put by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate.
I must point out that the costs quoted in the parliamentary answer which he mentioned
It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Patnick.]
Mr. Key : The costs quoted in the parliamentary answer to which my hon. Friend referred were right, but the costs for the concrete section related to total reconstruction of the road. The costs for porous asphalt were for resurfacing only. I have had to learn the hard way--by pounding the motorways of this country--about these things. I now understand that the cost per mile of laying different substances for the pavement varies enormously and, therefore, I am not at all surprised at the variations which my hon. Friend quoted. There are many engineering and accountancy elephant traps in these matters because the cost of laying certain materials is not the same as the cost of the entire reconstruction work. Furthermore, the life of different surfaces varies. The life of porous asphalt is comparatively short--it may be as short as five to seven years-- whereas a concrete surface can last more than 20 years. Those are some of the sums which I invite my hon. Friend to consider, perhaps in his bath tomorrow when he will undoubtedly have the benefit of Hansard to refresh his memory.
It is also important to recognise that my Department cannot simply lay new asphalt if there is still life in the existing concrete pavement. Often, it is true that the existing concrete pavement has been agreed as a noisy road surface, for which substantial payments have been made to those nearby in compensation already, and a double payment would not please the Public Accounts Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East said that some of his constituents wish to come and discuss these matters with me. I will be delighted to see him, with
Column 1270representatives of his constituents, at the earliest convenient moment, and perhaps we can discuss that tomorrow.
The scheme includes the reconstruction of the carriageway around junction 7, which is nearing the end of its life, and provides for the reconstruction of the existing asphalt surface in conventional hot-rolled asphalt. Following requests from residents and local authorities for the use of a quieter road surface, porous asphalt surfacing is being used on a trial basis in the densely populated Merstham area.
Commercial vehicle flows on that section are high. Porous asphalt surfacing has not been used extensively on heavily used roads in this country and evidence of its durability is limited. In addition, it is more expensive than other surfacing materials and has a shorter life, so all the noise and dust of resurfacing would come round sooner. My officials leave no stone unturned in the search for improved technology of pavements. Recently, I visited Italy to discuss these matters with my opposite number in the new Italian Government, and to visit Autostrada headquarters in Florence--a great hardship it was, too, as the House will imagine. We also pounded the Italian motorways looking at road surfaces and how they do it. Undoubtedly, we will have learnt from them, and they from us.
The section that is to be surfaced with porous asphalt will extend from Gatton Bottom in the west, through the Merstham built-up area to Pendell wood, east of junction 7. Pendell wood was chosen as the eastern termination point because the recent carriageway reconstruction ended there.
We considered carefully the requests from the While Hill residents association to extend the use of porous asphalt by a further 300 m eastward from Pendell wood to the White Hill bridge. We could not justify that as an additional expense when weighed against the likely costs of compensation and noise insulation measures which we may incur.
Following the publication of the environmental statement for the widening scheme between junctions 8 and 10 earlier this year, Reigate and Banstead borough council drew attention to discrepancies in the predicted noise levels at the point where the two schemes abut at Mogador, just west of junction 8. The consultants involved have investigated the apparent discrepancies and it has been established that the predicted noise levels at Mogador, which were quoted in the junctions 7 to 8 statement, were too low.
In recognition of the predicted higher noise levels in the Mogador area, higher noise fences will now be incorporated into the current junctions 7 to 8 widening works to reduce noise further in the area. Residents affected in the Mogador area were informed of those changes last week.
As a precaution, noise levels were reassessed for the whole scheme, which has resulted in a slight upward movement in some of the figures. Because of the extensive mitigation measures already included in the scheme, including bunds and noise fences, with one exception--Dell house at Merstham--that does not trigger the offer of further insulation, over and above that already proposed. In calculating the noise levels at Merstham, no account has been taken of the porous asphalt surfacing because it is being used on a trial basis only. That surface treatment will, however, reduce the existing and future noise levels
Column 1271by about 4 decibels, which is a substantial improvement ; that is in addition to the benefits obtained from the bunds and fences. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, there have been some complaints about construction noise from the widening works near the main residential areas of Merstham. The contractor has now been told not to operate large plant at night. Strict noise limits are set on the works contractor's operations and agreed with the environmental health officer. Wherever possible, work is carried out behind existing noise fences and earth bunds. Lower speed limits through contraflow systems on the motorway during construction should also lead to a small reduction in traffic noise.
Proposals for widening the section between junctions 8 to 10, to dual four lanes within the existing highway boundary, were published in February. I am pleased to take the opportunity of this debate to announce the results of that public consultation. More than 200 people submitted written comments to the Department and all the opinions expressed were considered carefully. Many issues were raised but, as my hon. Friend pointed out, noise was the issue that caused most concern. We have decided to proceed with the widening of the M25 between junctions 8 and 10 generally, as described in the environmental statement. I am pleased to say that we have been able to increase the height of some of the barriers and provide extra barriers in certain areas.
I fully understand the concerns about traffic noise expressed by many of those who live close to that section of the M25. The published proposals accordingly included extensive noise fencing to reduce the noise impact of the scheme and the provision of porous asphalt through the Leatherhead area, where there would be benefits for a considerable number of people.
In addition to noise barriers, the effects of the widening works will be moderated by retaining as much as possible of the existing motorway landscape planting and earthbunding, and by new planting. To complement that planting, the scope for tree and shrub planting on land in private ownership outside the motorway boundary will also be considered. Many of the existing noise barriers will be replaced. During the construction period, every effort will be made to minimise disruption and disturbance to local people and the local environment. The construction contract will include limits on noise levels and access routes. The length of time between the removal of existing noise fencing and the erection of replacement fencing will be kept to a minimum. Temporary fencing will be erected at the start of works, to protect the existing planting.
As has already been made clear to the House, the greatest concern expressed during public consultation was about the levels of traffic noise currently experienced by people living close to the motorway and the potential increase in noise from a widened motorway. Many people considered that the proposed provision of a porous asphalt carriageway in the Leatherhead and Ashtead gap should be extended elsewhere along that section of the motorway. I considered carefully all the representations made, but the existing surface is in good condition and, other than in the Leatherhead section, that part of the motorway passes through scattered and sparsely populated areas, with the notable exceptions of some small communities, including Downside and Walton-on-the-Hill. The proposed noise
Column 1272fences will help in those areas, but I am afraid that extending the provision of porous asphalt cannot be justified at this time. However, when the carriageway is in need of major maintenance, the use of porous asphalt or other noise reducing surfaces will be considered. Porous asphalt is a well-known low-noise surfacing, but there are others. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate referred to the noise of ridged concrete on our motorways. We are all familiar with that when driving a car and changing from surface to surface. It can be very noisy for the driver of the car, and it can be even worse for a person who has to sit near it all day and who sometimes has to endure it in the wet, which can be even noisier.
I had to learn about the different tones which emanate from the different kinds of surfaces. I am delighted to report that technology is again on our side, and it marches on. There is a new substance called "whisper concrete" which we are trialling on the M18 in Humberside. I visited the trial site, pounded up and down the M18, stood beside it, listened and looked at it from all angles. I listened to the advice of experts, and it is true--it is a very quiet surface. It has been used extensively elsewhere in Europe. We hope very much that we will be able to use it more widely here. We have a second trial on the A564 in the east midlands under construction at present. Initial sings from the first trial are encouraging and we are carefully monitoring how it performs on noise, skidding and durability. The skidding point is very important. We can build an almost silent surface for a road, but if one then puts a car on it, it will skid all over the place, which is very dangerous. We have to get the balance right. We hope to take decisions on the wider use of "whisper concrete" very shortly.
It will be of enormous benefit if technology has triumphed, because that surface will have a much longer life than porous asphalt. If we get it right, the surface noise generated will be about as quiet as porous asphalt 2. Details of the additional mitigation measures are given in the decision letter, which will be published tomorrow. We will now invite tenders for the design and construction of the widening works which are expected to start next spring.
On the proposals for widening westwards between junctions 12 and 15, I would like to assure the House that I am fully aware of the strength of feeling about our proposals for adding three-lane link roads to each side of the motorway between those junctions. That is the busiest stretch of road in the country and additional capacity for this section is needed if the motorway is to continue to function effectively.
Many have said that they would experience considerable difficulty in preparing for the public inquiry before the end of the year, as is currently anticipated. I fully appreciate their concerns. It is a very complex scheme and these are important issues. Therefore, in the light of those representations, I have decided that the public inquiry will not now start this year. An announcement on an actual start date will be made as soon as practicably possible.
I have also received representations from my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Sir M. Grylls) on behalf of his constituents who are seeking an extension to the objection period for the draft compulsory purchase order which ends tomorrow. Since the public inquiry will not now start this year, I will of course be prepared to
Column 1273receive objections after tomorrow. I look forward to discussing those matters--no doubt at great length--with my hon. Friend.
Column 1274Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at thirteen minutes past Ten o'clock.
|Written Answers Section