Traffic Management Bill

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Mr. McNulty: Thank you, Mr. Beard, for privately clarifying why amendment No. 83, which refers to traffic flows, was to be taken on its own, whereas new clause 24, which refers to traffic flow, was originally to be taken with the previous group. I am enormously grateful for your explanation of that mystery.

The right hon. Members for East Yorkshire and for Wokingham made several comments with which we have some sympathy. The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire does Leicester a slight disservice. It is in the middle of developing an extremely elaborate park-and-ride scheme that is supposed to be the other half of the equation that he described. I do not know where it will go, but Leicester is working on it. The right hon. Gentleman's characterisation was therefore unfortunate.

Parking schemes and strategies will be included in the local transport plan process. Authorities are rewarded according to their plans for parking. That may not have been done very much in the past, but I certainly envisage the LTP process, with its rewards and recognition of failure, as being part of the way in which we can try to influence local authorities. The two amendments—one amendment, save for an extra ''s''—aim to place additional duties on local highway authorities. They are unnecessary, or rather, the composite amendment is unnecessary, and would affect three types of scheme that require new or amended traffic regulation orders. Those are: schemes that require new or amended traffic regulation orders and include the introduction of banned turns, bus, cycle and similar lanes, waiting restrictions and loading restrictions; schemes that include works such as narrowing, build outs and chicanes that are implemented for traffic calming purposes; and road-space allocation schemes that are not regarded as calming—for example, where traffic lanes are being narrowed or removed to provide wider pavements. That is broadly what the two right hon. Gentlemen suggested.

The consultation requirements for the first type of scheme are laid out in the Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996, which make provision for consultation,

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publication of orders in draft to allow for objections to be made and, if necessary, a full public inquiry. It is possible to make experimental orders to test schemes of traffic management that do not involve allowing for objections, but such orders can cover a period of only up to 18 months.

Consultation requirements for traffic calming schemes are set out in the Highways (Traffic Calming) Regulations 1999. They include a requirement to

    ''consult such persons or organisations representing persons who use the highway or who are otherwise likely to be affected by the traffic calming work as the highway authority thinks fit.''

That could cover the local residents, shopkeepers and businesses mentioned in the amendment, although ultimately that judgment is a matter for the local traffic authority.

Road-space allocation can often be part of a more significant traffic management scheme, and it would be good practice for the local highway authority to consult inclusively with affected parties, including local residents, traders and businesses. The local highway authority, usually elected members, must then take a decision while balancing the scheme's objectives against its local adverse impacts.

It is not usual procedure to require majority support for any local authority work. I was a councillor for 11 years, and would say that whenever one consults on a road traffic scheme, whether a chicane or barrier, the guaranteed result is 50:50, or a third that says yes, a third that says no and a third that could not care less. The notion of traffic management and tweaks and changes to the network management by plebiscite is not therefore appropriate.

Fuller and more substantive consultation than that already provided for may be worth considering as and when we consider the guidance notes for the network management duty. I am more than happy to broach the subject of consultation as a part of that process, but we feel, for the reasons I have set out, that the range of consultative processes already more than adequately covers those referred to in the amendments. I ask the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire to withdraw the amendment.

10.30 am

Mr. Chope: I heard what the Minister said, and it is superficially attractive. Will he address the question of temporary closures? As he pointed out, it is possible to have a temporary closure of up to 18 months without consultation. The amendment would deal with that issue, which is well worth addressing. I have an example from my own constituency, from Golf Links road in Ferndown. There was pressure from residents of that road for a road closure. The county council was about to carry the closure through when people in the wider Ferndown area, including shopkeepers and other interested people, got wind of it. They panicked and sent me a petition, which arrived here by recorded delivery on the day that the county council was due to meet. I had to phone the county council and fax the petition. As a consequence, the

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council realised that the idea was not as popular as it had thought. An enormous amount of time and effort was wasted because the county council thought that the matter could be dealt with by the cheap and easy option of closing the road for 18 months and seeing what happened, but that would have exacerbated congestion on other roads in the area. That was not done with proper consultation, the consequence of which was a lot of ill feeling and expressions of bad faith by my constituents. All that could have been avoided if consultation had been required, even on a temporary closure of up to 18 months, as set out in the amendment and new clause.

Mr. McNulty: I suspect that I am unable to help the hon. Gentleman. However, I am glad that he is no longer lost in Northamptonshire but has returned to his own constituency.

I suspect that a fundamental review of the assorted consultative processes would need at least some element of provision for the experimental and the temporary. That is right and proper. When it comes to the hon. Gentleman's example, although roads can be closed without consultation for up to 18 months, best practice as followed by the better highway agencies is to consult and go through the process as though a permanent change was proposed.

If the hon. Gentleman is asking me to exhort highway authorities to utilise all the consultative duties that they already have in a far more robust fashion, I am with him. If he is saying, however, that we must absolutely get rid of any notion of temporary closures or temporary orders that experiment and see whether something works, I cannot help him, as that degree of flexibility is necessary at local level. In the broad scheme of things, given the statutory and other consultation procedures for the three different types of orders that I have explained, I think that it is unnecessary to go down the road of the amendment, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr. Knight: I thank the Minister for his response. To go back to his point about the city of Leicester, perhaps I should put on the record that I am very fond of the city. It is a place that I like to visit. However, if any authority develops and expands a park-and-ride scheme, what should come first: the park-and-ride scheme or the traffic restriction? Most people would think that the scheme should be put in place first. However, the motorist who visits Leicester has the pain, but is still waiting for the relief. That was my point. Under such circumstances, no wonder people decide to shop in out-of-town shopping centres.

The Minister's heart was not in his response. He appeared to be saying that he felt that if best practice were pursued, local authorities would consult widely. He said his view was that that should happen. All the amendment would do is make it compulsory for that consultation to take place. How can anyone who believes in the democratic process be against that? I therefore invite all members of the Committee who believe in the exercise of democracy to support the amendment.

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Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 8.

Division No. 11]

AYES
Chope, Mr. Christopher Knight, Mr. Greg Redwood, Mr. John
Thurso, John Wilshire, Mr. David

NOES
Bayley, Hugh Borrow, Mr. David Jamieson, Mr. David McNulty, Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian Miller, Mr. Andrew White, Brian Wright, David

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman: It will be convenient also to discuss new clause 1—Street and road works undertaken by local highway authorities—

    'It shall be a duty on every local highway authority to have regard to the need to keep traffic flowing when undertaking street and road works. They will be treated the same as other bodies and companies carrying out works that include street and road works.'.

Mr. Redwood: It was not clear to me when reading clause 16 whether the traffic manager and the network management would deal with one of the big problems that I observe in the United Kingdom today, which is the street and road works undertaken by local authorities and highways agencies.

When I travel around this congested island on the complex and difficult journeys that a Member of Parliament needs to make to carry out his or her parliamentary and political duties, frequently having to go by car because there is no obvious public transport alternative, I often discover that my journey is impeded by street and road works. My random but, I am sure, entirely representative sample in recent months has shown me that around half those difficulties are created by local and national highways authorities; the works are not being done only by the statutory gas and electricity companies.

I am all in favour of the measures in the Bill that would expedite street works undertaken by the utilities, and I think that I can live with the rather bureaucratic system that has been designed to achieve that worthy aim. As one who is not noted for liking bureaucratic answers, I am on this occasion prepared to forget that obstacle in the hope that the scheme outlined in the Bill will have the better desired effect—namely, reducing disruption to the local and national highway network created by statutory undertakings entering roads or streets for legitimate purposes to carry out street works.

When I travel around looking at what local and national highways authorities do, I find that two things annoy my constituents, and, I suspect, the constituents of many other Members, beyond measure. I often see streets partially or wholly closed for street works at the busiest time of day on busy days of the year. I remember that, at the start of the winter term when all the schools were going back, a number of street works were started in areas near me by local authorities who had decided to start spending money just when parents had to start taking their children

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back to school, having missed the opportunity to carry out those street works during the long, hot days of July, August and early September, when none of the schools was in operation.

I also notice the occasions when street lanes or whole roads are closed, and no street works are being undertaken. That, too, annoys my constituents and other frustrated motorists, who are not allowed to use all or a portion of the highway, and yet there is no visible work in progress when they encounter the restriction. We need a figure in authority, such as the traffic manager, with a duty to encourage better network management, who can say these things to the local authority, as well as to the statutory undertaker. The local authority's highways department should be told that it should not normally enter a street or road and carry out repairs or other street works at very busy times of the year or day. They should certainly be told that when they wish to pack up for the day or the evening and go home, they should put a temporary or permanent repair into whatever they are doing and reopen the road wherever possible, instead of leaving it closed and out of use for all the many hours when they are not working on it. It would make so much difference to our journeys around this country, particularly at busy morning and evening peaks if the local highways authority had to behave more sensibly, and was under some restraint to do so, just as it makes sense that statutory undertakers in the private sector should be told to restrict their entry on to the highway and their closure of the highway for necessary works.

 
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