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Column 990My hon. Friend mentioned a letter from the Highways Agency to Newbury district council planning department, and asked about the implications of reviewing the scheme for planning applications. Clearly, any planning application for development which depends on the provision of the bypass must be considered premature until the review is completed and my right hon. Friend makes a decision. However, it is not helpful for me or the Highways Agency to speculate about alternative schemes--particularly not alternatives that might involve a mere tweaking of a route, which could lead to consequential and substantial delays--or to speculate about the time scale.
The scheme is on hold pending the outcome of the review. It has not been abandoned, and it should be understood that it is just as probable that the outcome will be that the western bypass scheme will proceed as that my right hon. Friend will prefer another option. I hope that that clarifies the position.
I hope that my hon. Friend and the hon Member for Newbury will conclude from my remarks that we are fully seized of the concerns of their constituents and others, and that we shall take forward the review process with all due speed and without undue delay.
Mr. Watts: Yes, because one of the major elements of assessing the cost benefit of all road schemes is the cost of traffic congestion, particularly its effects on business. A delay that adds to the date on which a scheme can be implemented is clearly an important part of that process.
So there will be no undue delay. We are not simply seeking ways of gaining time to no good effect. The reasons for my right hon. Friend's decision are as stated. There is no sinister motive or hidden agenda. He wants to ensure that, before we go ahead with a major scheme that will set the pattern of road traffic through and around Newbury for many years ahead, we have the right solution. Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-seven minutes past Twelve midnight.
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