Skip to main content

Motorway Programme

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will announce the motorway projects that are now to be abandoned; and if he will introduce measures to end blight in those areas affected.

The programme has already been reduced substantially and I have no plans to cut it further at present. Priority will continue to be given to schemes which will take heavy traffic out of towns and villages. I am very conscious of the problems of blight and everything possible is being done to minimise them.

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on abandoning the Aire Valley motorway scheme? Will he also accept that many of my constituents in the Stockbridge area of Keighley hope that his new proposals will end blight in the area? Now that the scheme has been abandoned, will the Department put back on the market houses and property which it has bought so that areas which have been blighted can gain confidence?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's kind words. In this office one gets all too few commendations. It is right in the present situation that the road scheme in my hon. Friend's constituency should be an all-purpose scheme and not a motorway. However, such a decision will take several months since we must work out a detailed line, although we are moving as quickly as possible. When there is no need to protect a line because of a change of policy, we would not wish to maintain properties which we have had to acquire. I shall be glad to discuss with my colleagues whether such properties should be sold or retained as part of the local authority housing stock.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a year has elapsed since a public inquiry took place on the Archway Road widening scheme in my constituency and that despite numerous requests for a determination by the Department of the Environment none has been forthcoming? Is he also aware that major problems of personal hardship will now arise as a result of blight because of delays and the running down of the district and that there is mounting public anger? Will he give an assurance that we shall be given a decision one way or the other by the end of the month?

A great deal of blight occurs as a result of public participation exercises and is an inevitable consequence, although of course it is desirable that there should be the maximum public participation. However, if the public are given the choice of four or five routes and additionally are invited to suggest other alternatives, blight is bound to be caused while a scheme is being considered. I will certainly look at this particular scheme. If I made a decision within a year, it would be much faster than any such decisions by the previous Government, as I had occasion to point out from time to time.

As the Government are rightly looking for economies in public expenditure, and as motorways represent one of the few forms of expenditure to which there is a great deal of public opposition, would it not be wise for the Government in present circumstances at least to postpone all new motorway schemes until the economic situation has improved?

I think my right hon. Friend is unaware that the trunk road and motorway programme is now running at about 40 per cent. below what was forecast two years ago and that similarly local authority expenditure on roads is about 40 per cent. below what was forecast. It would be wrong to give the impression that we should not continue with the road building programme, because in many instances the economic and environmental benefits from those roads are considerable. Indeed, to implement all the requests that I receive in a month from my hon. Friends would take my allocation for a year.