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Magna Project (South Yorkshire)

7. Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): What proposals he has to improve road access to the Magna project in south Yorkshire. [133307]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Beverley Hughes): The planning permission for Magna granted by Rotherham metropolitan borough council requires access to the visitor attraction from the south to be via junction 33 of the M1. Some £500,000 of the resources available to Magna have been set aside for additional road works, signage and traffic-calming measures at that junction and on the road layout to the Magna project.

Mr. MacShane: I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for that answer. She will be aware that Magna is a millennium project that, sensibly, is opening next year--the first year of the millennium--so as to avoid the curse of everything that opened in 2000. The access road to the project from the Meadowhall shopping centre is important, and Rotherham and Sheffield councils are working together. The project is essential for economic regeneration, so will my hon. Friend ask her officials to consider giving priority for the new access road in the first five years of the 10-year development plan for south Yorkshire? If she cannot answer that technical point from the Dispatch Box today, will she receive a delegation to explore the problem further?

Ms Hughes: As I said, the success of Magna is not dependent on roadworks at junction 34, but my hon.

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Friend strongly makes the case for improved links between Meadowhall and Magna. However, it is for the south Yorkshire local authorities, in the local transport plan, to set their priorities for the first five years and then for the second five years. They have indicated that there is a possibility for 2006 and beyond, but that is not in the first five years of the plan. They are considering priorities in relation to the objective 1 programme. I should certainly be happy to talk further to my hon. Friend, but the priorities for such schemes need to be set locally.

Ring Roads

8. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): When he plans to make a decision on the location of new ring roads; and how many of those have been determined so far. [133308]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): We have not determined the location of the up to 100 bypass schemes for which funding is provided in our 10-year transport plan. That will depend on priorities identified in developing regional transport strategies and local transport plans.

Sir Teddy Taylor: In setting that programme, will the Minister accept that the south-east of England, and Southend in particular, has become about the most over-congested area of the nation, and the most neglected for road programmes? Bearing in mind the impact that that has on employment, is he willing to receive an all-party deputation from Southend to discuss possible solutions, including a ring road, which is urgently needed?

Mr. Hill: It is up to Southend borough council to determine its transport priorities in seeking Government funding through its local transport plan. We have heard the judgment of Southend borough council, and the council's full local transport plan, which was submitted this July, includes proposals for public transport improvements in the A13 corridor and road improvements in the A127 corridor to assist freight movements, but no proposal for a northern A127 bypass of the town. The hon. Gentleman should address his concerns to the local authority. The Government's position is that it is for local people to find local solutions to local transport problems, and we shall do our best to support them.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Does my hon. Friend think that, in designing new ring roads, it is essential to agree that they should indeed be ring roads, so that they do not immediately become clogged with parked traffic and so on, which defeats the purpose of building such roads?

Mr. Hill: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That is exactly the sort of matter that we consider in our very careful appraisal of all proposals for ring roads--or, to use the more modern terminology, bypass proposals.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): Given the appalling state of the nation's roads following the dreadful cuts in the roads programme inflicted by the Labour party, would not the Minister be well advised to give his attention to those road problems? When the nation's

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railways are in crisis, and many of the nation's roads are flooded and covered by fallen trees, is it not extraordinary that he makes the announcement:

At a time of transport crisis, has he not shown that the Government are losing their touch?

Mr. Hill: A good try by the hon. Gentleman--but I should have thought that as an avid cyclist, he would have welcomed that announcement. Indeed, I have led him on my own bike through the roads of London. We are in a difficult position, we are taking it very seriously and we are addressing our immediate attention to the transport difficulties that we are now experiencing--but do not knock the cyclists.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Would not the best possible thing that the Government could do for the city of Lancaster be to reverse the many years of Tory neglect, to aid the environment, to underpin a sustainable public transport system and vastly to increase the prospects of economic regeneration, by announcing the funding for Lancaster's western bypass in December, so that it can be built?

Mr. Hill: Another day, another demand. That is the second time that I have heard that demand from my hon. Friend, who participated in an Adjournment debate on precisely the same subject in Westminster Hall this morning. I commend him on his assiduous representation of his constituents' interests. I must say now what I said to him earlier: the bypass is a proposal in the local transport plans, on which we will make our announcements before Christmas.


9. Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport): What plans for bypasses have been (a) cancelled and (b) proposed by the present Government. [133309]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): Twenty of the 40 schemes in our targeted programme of trunk road improvements are bypasses. We cancelled the Salisbury and Hereford bypasses because of their impact on environmentally sensitive sites.

Mr. Viggers: According to the Government's own figures, they receive £36.5 billion in taxation from motorists and spend £4.9 million a year on road building. Is that fair?

Mr. Hill: The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the fact that this Government are committed to a sensible and achievable programme of bypasses and trunk road improvements. Twenty of the 40 schemes in our £1.5 billion targeted programme of trunk road improvements will provide bypasses for local communities, creating safer and healthier environments for those suffering from the effects of heavy volumes of traffic.

We are responding to local demands, and we have an achievable and realistic programme. We are not in the business of subscribing to fantasy lists of road schemes,

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such as those in which the preceding Administration engaged. Indeed, nearly half of the schemes included in the 1990 "Roads for Prosperity" White Paper had bitten the dust six years later. This Government are about serious improvements in our trunk road system, and we are delivering them.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important reasons for bypasses is to relieve the narrow and ancient streets of small market towns and villages from the ever larger heavy lorries that must rumble through them? Will he confirm that the Government support such bypasses in the 10-year plan, and are prepared to fund them? Now that Suffolk county council has finally recognised the need for the Bungay bypass in its structural plan, I hope that some money will be found within a reasonable time scale to enable that project to become reality.

Mr. Hill: My hon. Friend makes a fair point on behalf of his constituents. We agree in principle; we shall be examining the detailed proposal in due course and making an announcement.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): The Minister mentioned the cancellation of the Hereford bypass--a scheme that the previous Government downgraded. Given that there is much concern in the city of Hereford about the road traffic problem, will the Minister agree to meet representatives of Herefordshire council, of the local chamber of commerce and of business and environmental groups, to see which schemes, short of a full bypass, could be taken forward to help relieve that problem?

Mr. Hill: I am, of course, open to any reasonable request for a delegation, and we are obviously perfectly happy to consider proposals made by the hon. Gentleman and the local authority. After all, our recently announced 10-year transport plan will ensure the funding of up to 100 bypasses on national and local roads and 130 other major local road improvements, and will deliver up to 80 major national trunk-road schemes to improve safety and traffic flow at junctions. Against that backdrop, we are of course a listening Government, and will certainly listen to his concerns.

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