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Private Roads

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2007

Local authorities already have the power to bring unadopted roads up to the standard required for adoption. It is a matter of priorities for each individual authority to decide whether to do so, and there is no further role for central Government.

As my hon. Friend is aware, coalfield communities are disproportionately affected by unadopted roads, of which Derbyshire alone has 700. Will he agree to meet local authorities from coalfield communities to find finally some strategy to deal with that problem, which is not going away?

I certainly do know about the problem, because my hon. Friend has worked hard to ensure that Ministers are aware of it and of the specific issues. Of course, one of the ministerial team—these matters are usually dealt with by the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron)—will be delighted to meet her. Our ability to get involved in this is limited, but we can help to try to identify the various opportunities for funding such schemes of which my hon. Friend’s constituency can take advantage.

The Minister says that this is nothing to do with central Government. When the new town corporations handed over the overspill London new towns to local councils, many roads were not adopted, and local authorities simply do not have the money to put those roads into the state that they should be in for public use. As it was the Government’s fault when those agencies did not do their job properly, can we look into the problem again to see whether there is any central money to solve it?

Local authorities might take advantage of various sources of funding for such schemes. The Department for Communities and Local Government offers several opportunities through regeneration funding. The local authority can use its own local transport plan funding, the integrated transport block and revenue support grant. It can even consider the possibility of using private finance initiatives and neighbourhood renewal funding. There are opportunities for local authorities to deal with this. If the hon. Gentleman would like to write to us, we will enumerate them and he can get his local authority working on an opportunity to put the problem right.

Wakefield is a coalfield community with more than 200 unadopted roads. As my hon. Friend knows, the legislation that governs adoption is outmoded, requires unanimity from householders and is normally defeated because of apathy and the cost to those householders. They wish to resolve difficulties only when there are problems with sewage or street lighting. Will he liaise with Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that, as we embark on a programme of house building, we do not allow any more unadopted roads to be built on private estates and that, if they are built, planning agreements cover the costs of maintaining them in perpetuity and their adoption?

I will pass on those views to my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government. My hon. Friend makes a good point and any new housing developments should take such matters seriously and ensure that the problem does not get worse.

Will my hon. Friend take it from me that he cannot pass the buck in the way in which he appears to have done? It is his Department’s responsibility that many people in my constituency and in Kirklees cannot get an unadopted road made up. May we have some leadership from him on the use of recyclable aggregate, which can often be used to make up the roads economically? His comments do not sit well when I have to face a Kirklees council that is run by the Tories with Liberal Democrat support, and it has to wait for a Labour Government to get its road done up.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend is cross with me, but there is little scope for central Government in the matter. It is for local authorities to decide how best to use their resources. We can make a variety of resources available to them, including regeneration funding and neighbourhood renewal funds. I am told that some local authorities have even used the home zone scheme as a way of moving matters forward. If the Liberal Democrat or Tory-controlled council to which my hon. Friend refers genuinely intends to resolve the problem, it has the mechanisms at its disposal.