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Roads (Sussex)

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, following his decision not to proceed with the Channel Tunnel, how quickly he now expects to be able to announce improvements to the congested roads serving the port of Newhaven and surrounding areas.

As I told the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) on 3rd February, we are considering the general implications of the decision on the Channel Tunnel.

Is the Minister aware that we have been waiting for more than a year since consultations about road schemes took place in my constituency, particularly for the relief of Lewes but also for the whole of the surrounding area of Newhaven? Is it not time that the Minister gave his decision on these road schemes? This is a social matter for the people involved. Will the Minister give a specific answer to the questions which he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have avoided answering for far too long?

As the hon. Member probably knows, work on the new southern bypass for Lewes is expected to begin this year, and I expect construction of the Falmer diversion to begin during 1976. The Question asked what we had done since the decision on the Channel Tunnel was taken on 20th January.

We are considering this point. Hon. Members would do well to bear in mind that practically all hon. Members are in favour of road schemes in their constituencies but that whenever a line has to be drawn on a map there is the most intense opposition. If we are to take public participation procedures seriously—they were introduced by the last Conservative Government—this adds two or three years to the time between taking a decision to build a road and being able to begin construction. In addition, we have cut back the size of the road programme for reasons of general economic stringency.

is the Minister aware that British Railways can extend their port facilities without the necessity of planning permission by the local authority? Great congestion occurs in towns where such expansion takes place. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to meet a deputation which I will bring to him headed by the Chairman of the Shepway District Council, who can explain the situation personally?

I have written to the hon. Gentleman to say that we will be happy to talk to him about any problems arising from the Channel Tunnel. If on that occasion he would like to bring representatives of his district council, naturally I or my hon. Friend would be very happy to see them.