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Transport infrastructure was at the core of the hon. Gentleman’s Adjournment debate tonight. Further transport infrastructure funding has been made available by the Department for Transport via the local transport
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plan. Over the period of its first local transport plan, Northamptonshire received £84 million. We are part way through the second local transport plan period, under which the county will receive a further £95 million. I know that upgrading the transport infrastructure is very much a focus of attention for partners in north Northamptonshire, especially on the A14 and A45 trunk roads. I also know that north Northamptonshire has engaged with my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Transport on these issues and that ongoing work is taking place to come up with solutions to the issues posed. I hope that both hon. Members will be keen to continue to ask questions. The hon. Member for Kettering has already had an Adjournment debate on a similar subject a couple of months ago, which was responded to by my right hon. Friend the Housing Minister.

I fully recognise that infrastructure is a key issue for north Northamptonshire—and, indeed, all areas engaged in the growth agenda—but I hope that the examples of funding that I have mentioned will help to illustrate that the Government are fully committed to playing their part in resolving these issues, and that we are keen to work with Members of Parliament, local authorities and the development companies to support this process in the long term.

Mr. Hollobone: I sense that we have a little longer for our debate than the Minister was anticipating, and I am grateful to him for giving way. What can he say to the Department for Transport with regard to the A14? Most people in my constituency believe that, if the improvements are not made to the road until 2017, it will be far too late. Tens of thousands of new houses will already have been built by then, and a road that is already congested will have become even more dangerous.

Mr. Dhanda: The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point on behalf of his constituents. This is about a partnership to decide on the greatest local need. The hon. Gentleman obviously has a clear idea in his own mind of what that is. The joint planning unit and the development company in his constituency are progressing their work and liaising with and talking to the Government. I do not have a magic wand with which to resolve all the problems with different roads, but I hope that that partnership at local level, alongside the lobbying of the Department for Transport, might result in some of the money being focused most relevantly on to the areas of greatest priority and need in his community, including the two roads that I have just mentioned.

As I was saying, I hope that the examples of funding that I have mentioned will help to illustrate that the Government are fully committed to playing their part in resolving these issues, but questions in the House and debates such as these are all part of the process, which is why I welcome them.

Mr. Bone: I am very encouraged by the Minister’s remarks, which seem to represent a shift in policy. In relation to the A14 and the A45, my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) and I had understood that improvements could be made only if the regional assembly had agreed to them, despite the fact that the Highways Agency, the county council and the local council all thought that they were a good idea. May we be encouraged to think that the money could be spent locally without reference to the regional assembly?

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Mr. Dhanda: As the hon. Member for Wellingborough will know, so much of this will depend on local plans and local priorities as pressed for by the county council and his county authority. I have not been privy to those discussions and I am not a Transport Minister, so I will not make up policy on the hoof. What I can say, however, is that they presented their case and it is important that they do so. The relationship with Parliament is important, as is the connectivity between themselves. I am sure that they are well aware of the relevant local officials and local politicians—those involved with the joint planning unit and those who are members of the development company in their own patch. It is important to continue to have that dialogue and I am sure that they will.

I know that the north Northamptonshire joint planning unit and its partners, which have had a bit of hard time in the course of this debate, have received congratulations not least from the Minister for the East Midlands, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope). He recognised that the strategy provides an excellent example of joint working. I would like to add my own congratulations to the unit and all those concerned on producing this important strategy. It is not an easy piece of work. The hon. Member for Kettering has highlighted points 3 and 16 on page 28, but I do not know the wider context. Let me be honest and say that although I have had a flick through, I have not read all 90 pages of the document— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wellingborough is shaking his head, but I would not want to misrepresent in any way what is in that document. I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentlemen have either, but it is important to take account of the full context of reports.

I acknowledge that there is much more to do. This is the first development plan document—or DPD—to be adopted as part of the north Northamptonshire local development framework. I understand that about 14 further DPDs are currently scheduled in the agreed north Northamptonshire local development scheme. That represents a very significant work load and I would encourage all the responsible partners to look again to find opportunities to streamline the number of DPDs. I offer that encouragement in the spirit of wanting to see north Northamptonshire succeed in realising the ambitions set out in the core spatial strategy and to build on this promising start.

Although both hon. Gentlemen have their differences with much that they have seen in the document, I think that they would accept that there are some very important and good things in it. I would strongly encourage those in north Northamptonshire and elsewhere to look closely at the opportunities presented by the revised version of planning policy statement 12 on local spatial planning. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing has already acknowledged that the new spatial plan-making system introduced in 2004 has proved to be unnecessarily complicated, but we have taken that into account and listened to concerns, so the revised PPS seeks to create a fairer, more streamlined and, I hope, transparent spatial planning process. In doing that, it places community engagement at its heart, while stressing the need for robust evidence and active engagement with infrastructure providers.

I would particularly like to emphasise that we want to see community engagement at the heart of the local plan-making process and I urge the hon. Member for
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Kettering to engage with the further development of the north Northamptonshire local development framework and to encourage his constituents to do likewise.

As I have said, there is still much more to do and many challenges to face—not least in developing infrastructure. I would like to repeat that the Government will strive to play their part in resolving the challenges
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before us as part of the partnership and I would like to restate the importance of tackling the need for more housing—failure to do so would be to fail our children and future generations.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past Ten o’clock.

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