Declares that the constant ever increasing noise from the 33,000 plus vehicles using the A50 concrete road daily has become intolerable. Residents cannot have their windows open at night even in mid-summer. They are also unable to sit in their gardens in peace as the noise can drown conversations. These and other side effects put a great strain on the nervous system.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to change the policy of waiting until this surface needs repair, estimated to be in thirty years time, and resurface this road with a quieter surface immediately.
Protecting and enhancing the environment is an increasingly important role for the Highways Agency, and this includes mitigating the impact of traffic noise wherever practicable. Therefore, the Highways Agency will continue to install lower noise surfacing materials on all new roads and when it carries out major maintenance on existing roads. This policy has so far enabled the Agency to install low noise surfacing on 35 per cent. of its network, and aims to resurface an additional 7.5 per cent. of the network up to 2010-11.
Where noise is a particular problem for local communities, the Agency also investigates the feasibility of noise mitigation measures to provide practical and cost-effective solutions. Sixty sites have benefitted from these measures in the last nine years, with a further seven sites expected to be treated by 2010-11.
The Highways Agency is also working closely with DEFRA to implement the requirements of the EU Environmental Noise Directive, as transposed into UK legislation by the Environmental Noise Regulations (2006). This has already resulted in noise maps being produced for the entire strategic road network in England, and a road noise action plan is to be put in place later in this financial year. The action plan is expected to identify practical cost-effective and sustainable solutions to reduce road noise, and is due to be finalised in early 2009. The Highways Agency is also developing a forward strategy for noise mitigation, which will include implementation of a new system for identifying and prioritising problem sites.
The Government has a duty to deliver value for money within the budgets that are available. The Highways Agency's road maintenance budget is optimised to ensure that the network is kept in a safe and serviceable condition. Bringing forward the resurfacing of concrete roads ahead of need to reduce noise would mean that essential maintenance work would have to be put back. This would have a detrimental impact on the condition of the strategic road network with subsequent cost implication on maintenance in the longer term. It would also be inconsistent with our wider aims to operate a sustainable transport system, by optimising the use of raw materials and energy required for road construction and maintenance.
Declares that the residents of Southend strongly oppose the closure of Southend Driving Test Centre, which would mean that local residents would have to travel an unreasonable distance to take their driving tests.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Secretary of State for Transport to do all within her power to prevent the closure of Southend Driving Test Centre and ensure that a full and transparent public consultation is conducted should a closure be proposed in the future.
Southend-on-Sea Driving Test Centre is located within the offices of the Department for Work and Pensions on Prittlewell Chase. This is a 1960s building that does not offer the modern facilities that the DSA tries to provide for customers and staff wherever possible.
A new national network of Multi-Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) is being developed to facilitate the implementation of European Commission Directive 2000/56/EC which introduced more demanding manoeuvres for practical motorcycling tests, and meets our needs for safer driving.
DSA has considered how best to both meet the needs of driving test candidates in the Southend area and comply with the new European test requirements. The Agency is proposing to move driver and rider testing in the area to a new MPTC facility at Basildon, some 10 miles away. The relocation of the Southend facility to the Basildon MPTC would maximise the utilisation of the facility and ensure there is no wasteful over provision of facilities in the area.
DSA has service standards that need to be met where possible. In areas with a population density equal to or more than 1,250 persons per square kilometre they state
that most candidates should not have to travel more than 7 miles to a driving test centre. The proposed co-location of Southend driving test centre to Basildon would exceed this criterion and in accordance with the DSA Code of Practice on Written Consultations a public consultation commenced on 13 February and closed on 9 May 2008.