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Column 904upgrade parts of the A65 are bound to have a cumulative effect in attracting traffic to the route. Following the recent work of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, that principle is now generally accepted.
That effect is bound to be intensified if, even before the completion of the Burley-in-Wharfedale bypass, which has certainly been much needed, an announcement is made that the Manor Park bends scheme is to start in the next financial year. The Minister should appreciate that the Manor Park bends scheme has been in gestation for a fraction of the time of the Bingley bypass, and that its benefits are essentially based on road safety factors alone.
Furthermore, by further improving the A65 ahead of the A650, some traffic will be diverted from the latter to the former, bearing in mind the congestion in Bingley, thus further adding to the conviction of many that the Department of Transport wishes to see an increase in traffic on the A65 to justify the construction of a bypass around Ilkley, which is, as everybody knows, a highly contentious proposal. The road safety arguments in favour of eliminating the Manor Park bends on the A65 are formidable-- all the more so following two tragic fatal accidents in recent weeks. I do not agree, however, that there is a case for building a massive four-lane highway alongside the existing road while retaining the latter in situ for local traffic. That proposal needs to be seen in conjunction with Bradford council's unitary development plan, in so far as it affects the Ilkley area. That plan has led many to fear that the essential character of a beautiful valley might easily be lost.
I believe that it is also quite unnecessary to construct a large roundabout at Ben Rhydding, at the western end of the new stretch of road, taking an acre of land away from the Ben Rhydding sports club's car park. The club quite naturally looks ahead to the next stage, which would be an Ilkley bypass. That would remove a great deal more land from the playing fields which are used by hundreds of people every weekend.
It should be borne in mind that we are talking about a steep-sided valley, and I am not aware of any alternative accessible land of similar scale to which the club might have access. At the very least, the club is entitled to be kept much more fully informed than it has been when its very existence is at stake.
As I have already suggested, a question mark hangs over the Ilkley bypass, which is now classed as a category 4 scheme. I welcome the opportunity for further consideration in the light of developing trends. I know that many organisations and individuals want to contribute to the continuing debate. The downside to that debate is the uncertainty which it has created, but I believe that most people will accept that that uncertainty cannot be avoided as we continue to consider the important issues that must be addressed before a decision is reached.
I welcome the existence of organisations such as the Wharfe Valley Road Forum, which is led exceedingly well by Dr. Jim Burton. It regularly brings together a wide range of interested organisations from the area and beyond to discuss road issues.
In the coming months, I hope that the Minister will find time in his schedule to visit Airedale and Wharfedale. It is easy to look at proposals and plans on paper, but it is
Column 905a different matter to visit an area. It is essential to visit Airedale and Wharfedale to appreciate the problems properly. problems.
I recall that, when the previous Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor), visited, he was surprised and delighted by the beauty of the lovely valleys. He started to appreciate the concerns that had been expressed by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley. I assure my hon. Friend the Minister that we will provide him with a generous Yorkshire welcome. I am sure that he appreciates the great concerns that are felt, and I ask him to address them urgently. 7.8 pm
Sir Marcus Fox (Shipley): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) on securing the Adjournment debate. I am grateful to him for giving me two or three minutes to add to his remarks.
I am grateful to the Minister--at the present time, it is rare to say such a thing to the Minister for Railways and Roads--for the Burley bypass and the announcement to correct the Manor Park bends, which have been such an accident blackspot. However, I must not lull him into a sense of false security, because section 3 of the Aire valley is not simply a trunk road-- it is a bypass round the town of Bingley.
I must declare an interest, as I reside in Bingley. My constituents, who number just short of 70,000, all understand that what was a thriving community has become a shadow of its former self. The town centre no longer deserves to be named as such. Congestion and pollution have forced the public to shop elsewhere. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said, the town is now occupied by traffic that trundles through ceaselessly, especially heavy lorries. It is no exaggeration to say that the quality of life for thousands of my constituents is deteriorating fast.
People are inclined to forget that there is such a thing as northbound traffic, which is vital commercially. It is a vital route. Ours is an area built on trade and commerce--engineering and textiles are just two of the older industries. However, the A650 and the A65 are the main trunk roads from West Yorkshire to the west and east of Scotland, Cumbria and north Lancashire.
The tragedy is that, in the 25 years that I have been the Member of Parliament for Shipley, I have somehow failed to ensure that that road is completed. It is now perilously close to Bradford, and I use that word deliberately because--there are other plans further ahead than Bradford--no one can understand why that route, which was previously thought to be important when the money was available, somehow now does not warrant the same priority.
I know that my hon. Friend the Minister fully understands the situation. I regret that the Government have had to make economies, but I plead with him at the earliest opportunity to recognise the importance of the matter to so many of my constituents and friends. 7.11 pm
Column 906in the Airedale and Wharfedale valleys has a long history, which my hon. Friends know extremely well, and which I need not rehearse to the House again tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) suggested that the rapid comings and goings of Ministers with my current responsibilities in the Department have led to a lack of continuity in considering the importance of those schemes. However, I can assure his constituents that any lack of continuity among Ministers is more than compensated for by his continuing persistence in arguing the case on behalf of his constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) has also shown persistence--he reminded us that he has battled in support of those schemes for 25 years.
In Airedale, the Department has seven schemes. Of those, two are completed and five are still in preparation. The aim of those schemes is to provide a good route between the Airedale business centres and the motorway network, to secure a raft of economic and environmental benefits for communities in the area and contribute significantly to economic regeneration by improved transport links. It will connect the M62 motorway via the city of Bradford metropolitan council schemes, which have already been built or are being planned, and the A650 trunk road bypass of Drighlington, opened by the Department in 1991.
Airedale has seen considerable investment in recent years, both in the schemes that have been completed and in the construction of advanced works for schemes yet to be built. The two completed schemes are the A650 between Kildwick and Beechcliffe, which was opened to traffic in August 1988 at a construction cost of £20 million, and the Victoria Park to Crossflatts section, which was opened to traffic in October 1988 at a construction cost of £16 million.
Good progress is being made on the five schemes in preparation, and those include the Bingley relief road scheme, which both my hon. Friends mentioned. That is a three-mile dual carriageway bypass of Bingley town centre. It will relieve heavy congestion in the town centre, by removing about 80 per cent. of the traffic. It will bring significant environmental and safety improvements to Bingley. Good progress is being made on that scheme, and several advance works have been completed. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley referred to those. One major advance works contract is currently under way--the construction of retaining walls at Crossflatts railway station, prior to electrification of the Leeds to Skipton railway line. Work on that commenced in July of last year and should be completed by the spring of 1995. As my hon. Friends know, all the statutory orders for the Bingley relief road have now been completed.
Both my hon. Friends reminded the House that the Bingley relief road scheme was categorised as priority 2 in the review undertaken of the roads programme in March 1994 and, although it is true that, in general, priority 2 schemes are likely to have longer lead times, some priority 2 schemes-- which could include the Bingley relief road--may be built before all the priority 1 schemes have been completed, primarily because their statutory process is already further advanced.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley has argued that there are strong economic and environmental reasons for making progress with that scheme. I accept that there
Column 907could be some absurdity if advance works were completed too long before the roads that they are designed to serve. That factor has some influence on my thinking.
There is also a misconception--indeed, a fear--that the construction of the Bingley relief road may be delayed as a result of the expensive tunnel option for the contiguous Saltaire relief road scheme. I can give my hon. Friends a categorical assurance that such fears are unfounded.
The Saltaire scheme is at a very much earlier stage of development, while, as I have said, the Bingley scheme is very near the end of the preparatory stage, and could be ready to start construction. The Saltaire scheme will not influence or delay the provision of funds for the Bingley relief road scheme, because, although both those schemes are part of the longer-term strategy that we have developed for the road needs of the area, the schemes can stand alone in terms of development and of finance, and are not in any way interdependent.
The other schemes in preparation in Airedale include the A650 Shipley eastern bypass, which is planned to provide a link with the local highway authority schemes in Bradford to the South and to the M62 motorway. A preferred route for that scheme, a 1.3 mile dual carriageway, was announced in March 1992. That is a priority 1 scheme, and we are pressing ahead with the design as quickly as possible. It is intended that it should be constructed before the Saltaire relief road is built.
However, the development of the Shipley eastern bypass depends on sufficient work on the Saltaire relief road options being completed to determine the way that the two schemes should eventually be linked. The next stage for the Shipley eastern bypass will be the publication of draft orders.
The A650 Hard Ings road improvement is a short length of single carriageway road, joining the already constructed sections of the Airedale route, which lie to either side of it. The existing road is to be improved to dual carriageway standard. The improvement will be achieved by widening the existing road on its northern side. Widening the road to the north avoids residential properties and the sensitive area of Victoria Park, which is one of the few areas of open space in Keighley.
Mr. Waller: I appreciate the comments that my hon. Friend has made about the Hard Ings road scheme, but could I ask him to take special care as regards the two important employers on the north side of that road? I believe that both deserve to be kept fully informed about the intentions of the Highways Agency and the Department, because both are expanding companies that provide the jobs that we need in Keighley, and the uncertainty that clouds their future is worrying.
Following public consultation, the preferred route for that scheme was announced in March 1992. The draft Side Roads Order was published in October last year. However, it may be necessary to hold a public inquiry to deal with the objections that have been received, of which there have been 67 to date.
The final scheme in the raft is the A629 Skipton to Kildwick improvement, which went to public inquiry in October 1993. The inspector's report has been received, and is currently being considered.
Column 908On 19 December 1994, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced the new starts for 1995-96. Those included the A65 Manor Park improvement scheme, and the A65 Hellifield and Long Preston bypass in Wharfedale. Those schemes are much needed on environmental and safety grounds.
In Wharfedale, two projects have already been completed: the Addingham bypass and the Draughton bypass. The Addingham bypass was opened to traffic in October 1990. It is a two-mile-long single carriageway bypass to the south of the village. As a result of the bypass, traffic levels in the village have fallen from 14,000 per day to 4,800--a reduction of two thirds.
The majority of heavy goods vehicles have been removed, which has considerably improved road safety through the centre of the village. The personal injury accident rate has dropped from approximately eight per year to less than one. Noise, air pollution and congestion levels have also been significantly reduced.
The Draughton bypass was opened to traffic in December 1991. It is a 1.4- mile-long single carriageway bypass to the south of the village. The village itself is a conservation area surrounded by open countryside. The bypass takes 7,700 vehicles per day, of which about 14 per cent. are heavy goods vehicles, leaving only about 300 vehicles--predominantly local traffic--in the centre of the village. Those schemes are prime examples of what the Government seek to achieve through the construction of rural bypass schemes which improve the quality of life and reduce accident rates in towns and villages by the removal of through traffic.
Other schemes in Wharfedale include the Chelker bends improvement, the Chelker to Addingham improvement, the llkley bypass, the Manor Park improvement, the Burley-in-Wharfedale bypass and the Otley to Burley improvement.
The Chelker bends improvement is located between the Draughton bypass and the Addingham to Chelker improvement. The existing road has poor alignment and a very sharp bend at the western end of Chelker reservoir. Good progress is being made with the scheme. In his announcement of 6 December 1994, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State identified it as a regional improvement scheme that will start in the coming financial year.
The Ilkley bypass is a four-mile dual carriageway. The preferred route was announced in December 1992 and was selected because it was considered to have the least impact on the environment and to take account of the many local comments received. However, as there were more pressing and urgent cases elsewhere, the scheme was placed in the longer-term category in the roads programme review and there will be no further work on the scheme until it can once again be considered for entry to the active programme.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said, that gives plenty of time for further consideration to be given to the scheme. Meanwhile, the preferred route has been
Column 909announced and safeguarded for planning purposes. That ensures relief for people whose property might be blighted as a result of the scheme. There is no further work on the scheme at present. The Manor Park improvement aims to bring about a significant improvement to road safety, especially at the eastern end of the scheme where a series of bends have contributed to an accident rate which is more than twice the national average. It is contiguous to the Burley-in- Wharfedale bypass which is currently under construction and which my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned in a favourable light.
The new two-mile carriageway will run alongside the existing carriageway, which will be retained as a local access road. It will terminate in a roundabout at the western end, thus helping to control the speed of traffic entering Ilkely. The scheme was given the go-ahead in December 1992, following a public inquiry at which all draft orders were considered. As I explained earlier, the scheme was included in the list of new starts for the next financial year announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 19 December 1994.
Column 910The Burley-in-Wharfedale bypass, which is currently under construction, should be open to traffic before the end of March. I know that both my hon. Friends hope to be present on that happy occasion. I am not sure whether I shall be able to join them on that day, but I shall certainly take up the generous invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley to visit the Airedale and Wharfedale area, to enjoy the generous Yorkshire welcome of which he assured me and to see for myself the land where the road schemes will be provided. Like my hon. Friend, I find it far more instructive to look at the land relating to schemes than to try to understand them from reading maps.
I hope that my hon. Friends will conclude from my remarks that the Government are strongly committed to major road improvements in both Airedale and Wharfedale. That is demonstrated by the level of investment to date and the volume of preparation work which is currently being undertaken. I commend both my hon. Friends for their strong and vigorous advocacy of the economic and environmental needs of their constituents, both individuals and businesses. I look forward to meeting some of their constituents when I am able to accept their invitation to visit the region.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-five minutes past Seven o'clock.
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