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Although it is undesirable for the trunk road to be located in such an environment, the agency must work according to the realities of life while attempting to mitigate the effects of the road. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, plans to remove the road from the centre of Dunstable are in the Department’s major roads programme. The proposed A5-M1 link to which he referred—the Dunstable northern bypass—will provide an alternative route for strategic traffic on the A5, and will provide significant benefits in terms of journey time reliability across the network. The preferred route for the scheme was announced in
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February last year; since then there have been minor changes, which were shown locally at an exhibition early in October.

We are not viewing the link road in isolation. Planning proposals are likely in the near future for a significant housing development consisting of up to 16,000 new homes north of Dunstable, between Houghton Regis and the link road. The development is part of the large Milton Keynes-south midlands growth area.

The Highways Agency and its consultants have been working closely with developers who have an interest in developing the land north of Dunstable and south of the A5-M1 link. A position paper which was signed recently sets out the matters that have been agreed between all parties so far, including the Highways Agency. The agency has also been giving its comments to Luton and South Bedfordshire district councils on the local development framework documents, which set out the proposals for future development in the Dunstable area among others. It has expressed a desire to become more closely involved with the traffic-modelling work that will underpin the transport strategy for the local development framework. For some time it has adopted a proactive approach to development in the Dunstable area, and it meets developers and others regularly to establish what must be done.

Andrew Selous: The one thing that all my constituents want to know about the A5-M1 link is when it will be built. Can the Minister specify a date?

Mr. Harris: I think that if I were to give the hon. Gentleman a date he would be more surprised than me, but I am happy to write to him informing him of the stage that the planning process has reached. It would not be appropriate to make such an announcement during an Adjournment debate.

The regional funding allocations provide the means of delivering the transport priorities for each region, and hence fulfilling those in the east of England plan. The Secretary of State for Transport’s response to the region on 6 July 2006 accepted its advice that the construction of the A5-M1 link road should start during the period between 2008-09 and 2015-16—a date that is not as specific as the hon. Gentleman would like—but also required the Highways Agency to proceed with the scheme through statutory processes—

The motion having been made at Six o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Six o'clock.

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