9. What steps he is taking to accelerate major road-building projects. (137500)
The Highways Agency is undertaking pilot schemes to demonstrate how four major road schemes can be delivered more quickly. So far, these have been accelerated by 18 and 21 months. We have achieved this by making widespread changes to the planning, design and construction regime.
I thank the Minister for that reply. I understand that the planning inspectorate’s report on the possible M6 link road to Heysham port around Lancaster may be on the Minister’s desk. Given that the plans for that were first sketched out in 1948, could somebody speed things up a little bit, as this will be a vital route for Lancaster, the north-west and indeed Northern Ireland?
We received the examining authority’s report and recommendation on the scheme from the planning inspectorate on 19 December. The report is being considered carefully. We are obliged under the Planning Act 2008 to decide whether to grant a development consent for the scheme by 19 March 2013. I am looking to see whether we can accelerate that even faster.
When the Minister next meets the Mayor of London, I urge him to discuss the Silvertown link between North Greenwich and Silvertown on the north side of the river. More importantly, many people are concerned about the need for public transport links along that stretch of the river, so will the Minister discuss with the Mayor the need to introduce a link for the Docklands Light Railway to come to North Greenwich, as it is essential for that to be part of the river crossing?
I regularly meet both the Mayor of London and the commissioner of transport for London. I will make sure that that subject is on the agenda the next time we meet.
In 1948, the very same county plan for Lancashire—under a Labour Government, I duly note—recommended a new A585 trunk road to improve links to both Fleetwood and the northern parts of my constituency. This remains a key local priority, but what guidance has the Department issued to the local enterprise partnerships to ensure that when decisions about regional structural priorities are taken, they are evidence based rather than based on economic fashion?
We have encouraged local enterprise partnerships to involve themselves with other local groups in order to ensure that suggestions, plans and designs for new routes take economic potential into account. Many LEPS throughout the country have taken that on board, and I trust that the one in Lancashire will do the same.
In his reply to the question from the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), the Minister referred to the autumn statement of 2011. Will he now tell us how many of the schemes that were announced at that time have so much as seen a spade in the ground? In how many instances has construction actually begun?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that 90% of the projects announced in the 2011 autumn statement are under way, and that 13 have been completed.