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A14: Kettering

Volume 728: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2023

I will call Mr Philip Hollobone to move the motion and then call the Minister to respond. As is the convention in 30-minute debates, there will not be an opportunity for the Member in charge to wind up.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered junction 10A on the A14 at Kettering.

I thank you, Ms Fovargue, for chairing this debate, and Mr Speaker for granting permission for it. I welcome my good friend the roads Minister to his place and thank him for his successful visit to Kettering bus station in December to launch the Department for Transport’s £2 bus fare scheme, which is already seeing a 7% increase in local bus travel across the country.

Junction 10A on the A14 at Kettering does not yet exist. At the moment, it is just a blob on a DFT map, but it is a junction that local residents very much need if Kettering, Barton Seagrave, Burton Latimer and Cranford are not to grind to a halt because of all the traffic generated by the new house building taking place locally.

Junction 10A is critical infrastructure. It is likely to cost £40 million, with financial contributions split between the Department for Transport and the developer, and is required to deliver phase 2 of the Hanwood Park development, which in Government planning terms is designated as a garden community development of an eventual 5,500 dwellings and employment land covering 328 hectares to the east of Kettering. Local land values will not allow the development of the junction to be funded without Government intervention, so public funding is required.

In line with planning conditions, junction 10A must be in place by the time 2,700 dwellings are occupied. Just over 1,000 dwellings are already occupied, and the developer’s current housing trajectory shows that the 2,700 occupied dwellings trigger for junction 10A will be reached in 2026. There is therefore a significant risk that the development will grind to a halt in three years’ time without the new junction. Thousands of future local jobs could be at risk, and there will be a further 2,800 new local homes, including 560 affordable homes, that simply cannot be built.

My ask of His Majesty’s Government and of the roads Minister today is for a firm commitment to include junction 10A in the DFT’s road investment strategy 3, which is the programme for major road programmes in the period from 2025 to 2030. Junction 10A is already in the pipeline for potential inclusion in RIS3, but what we need now is a definite commitment to include it.

If 2026 is to remain the target date for the delivery of junction 10A, it requires detailed planning approval to be achieved in 2023 and it requires the requisite procurement to commence concurrently. That can happen with confidence only if there is a definite Government commitment to junction 10A and a tangible Government commitment to RIS3 funding. What we are talking about is the need for joined-up Government. If His Majesty’s Government are to get anywhere near their objective of seeing 300,000 new dwellings built each year in England, they need to ensure that the requisite roads infrastructure is in place. Funding junction 10A and enabling Hanwood Park to continue being developed beyond 2026 will be a key test of a dovetailed Government housing and roads strategy.

I know that the Department for Transport already recognises the importance of the junction, because funding for the new junction 10A was originally included in RIS1 for the period 2015 to 2020. The slow housing development roll-out amid the national economic conditions at the time meant that the programme was not activated, but housing development on site is now proceeding apace and the funding is now required.

The Hanwood Park development is the fourth largest sustainable urban extension in the country. It is one of the nation’s flagship housing extensions and sits within the strategic Oxford-to-Cambridge planning arc. For local people, the Hanwood Park development is the equivalent of bolting on to the town of Kettering itself another town the size of Desborough. We have to ensure that the homes built on the development form a vital, liveable community and do not simply become one big, soulless housing estate. To make that happen, we must ensure not only that the infrastructure is in place to serve those new dwellings, but that there is no adverse impact on the quality of life of existing residents of other parts of Kettering, Barton Seagrave, Burton Latimer and Cranford.

Fortunately, the local planning design code is set at a high standard, and there is set to be good internal and town centre connectivity with access to trunk roads, including the A6, A43 and most importantly the A14. Hanwood Park forms a key component of housing to be delivered in North Northamptonshire and Kettering, in the adopted North Northamptonshire joint core strategy for 2011 to 2031, and in the site-specific part 2 local plan, which was adopted in December 2021.

Housing growth is being planned in parallel to the delivery of employment land and other uses. Including estimated construction jobs, the development could provide more than 8,000 new jobs, with 4,300 jobs directly within the development itself. Outline planning permission for Hanwood Park was originally granted in the last days of the last Labour Government in April 2010—13 years ago—for 5,500 houses, 20% of which were to be affordable. It included a range of employment uses; a mixed-use district centre, including shops, local services and a health clinic; three local centres; a secondary school; four primary schools; a hotel and leisure development; and extensive formal and informal open spaces.

Work is well under way to deliver development in the first phase of Hanwood Park, with 1,921 new homes having received consent and a further 193 currently going through the planning process, together with internal roads, green spaces, a sustainable urban drainage system and utilities infrastructure. Hayfield Cross Church of England primary school, the first school on the site, is already fully operational. A free school bid has been successful for the delivery of the secondary school, and an ongoing public consultation is currently being conducted by Orbis Education Trust regarding whether the school should be boys-only or mixed entry.

Despite the challenges of the covid pandemic and the associated economic downturn, high quality housing delivery continues across the scheme, with David Wilson Homes, Barratt, Bellway, Orbit, Persimmon, Avant and Taylor Wimpey all progressing. Grace Homes, a local small and medium-sized house builder, is looking to commence this year, subject to planning approval. A new outline planning application has been submitted for the remaining 3,386 dwellings, as well as the remaining schools, formal and informal open spaces, district and local centres, a hotel and employment. The application is currently pending and has reached an advanced stage.

There has been clear Government support for the Hanwood Park development to date, including Homes England granting £60 million of loan funding to the developer and delivery partners. That funding partnership with Homes England has resulted in the development now having a primary school, surface water attenuation, adopted foul sewers, three principal access roads, and junction improvements on town roads in Kettering itself. Funding has also been secured by North Northamptonshire Council from the new garden communities initiative and the Homes England large sites capacity fund, to help support the project and others across North Northamptonshire.

The developer of Hanwood Park has signed a memorandum of understanding with National Highways, setting out the project control framework approach for junction 10A. To maintain the programme, the developer is carrying out, at its own risk, a range of technical and environmental surveys, including a utilities survey, a wintering bird survey and topographical and archaeological investigations, in anticipation of submitting a detailed application for junction 10A.

Confirmation of Department for Transport funding for junction 10A is now imperative to ensuring continued housing delivery at Hanwood Park beyond 2026, including badly needed affordable housing, along with significant employment opportunities and local economic growth, and to giving the market the confidence it needs that housing delivery will not be stifled beyond that date. In addition to continued housing delivery, the new junction 10A will unlock employment land, which is key for local sustainable economic growth. Junction 10A is essential to the delivery of some 10 hectares of employment land at Hanwood Park in the south-eastern quadrant of the development adjacent to the A14. Without the new junction 10A, the market delivery of these employment areas would be extremely challenging and might not even be possible.

For local people, the tragedy is that we could have had as many as 2,700 new homes already built by 2026 without the necessary road infrastructure to take us beyond that level. That presents the real risk of gridlock in the town of Kettering, with initial houses already provided but with the Government not coming up with their share of the funding for the new junction 10A. My plea to the roads Minister today, on behalf of local people in Kettering, is that he recognise the fundamental importance of the new junction to people in the local area and that the Government make the commitment to fund it that we badly need.

I am delighted to respond to the important points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), who is a diligent Member and a great representative of the people and businesses of Kettering. I had the pleasure of visiting Kettering back in December to launch the £2 bus fare cap, which has now been extended all the way to 30 June. It is clear that where Kettering leads, the rest of the country follows. He has consistently championed the proposed improvements on the A14 on behalf of his constituents, and I congratulate him on securing this important debate.

The A14 is one of the country’s most important east-west arteries on the strategic road network, stretching for 127 miles and connecting Felixstowe in the east to Rugby and the logistics hub at the heart of the midlands at the other end, where it meets the M1 and the M6. The importance of this corridor in connecting the country and providing access to some of the nation’s key international gateways cannot be overstated. That is why we have invested heavily in the route since 2015.

In 2017, we completed the £190 million remodelling and capacity improvements to the Catthorpe interchange, where the A14 intersects with the M1. In 2020, the 12-mile, £1.5 billion Cambridge-to-Huntingdon improvement scheme was completed, providing much-needed added capacity for commuters and long-distance traffic. We are considering further improvements to the A14 where it meets the A12 west of Ipswich, as part of the pipeline of schemes being addressed in the road investment strategy.

I am grateful for the Minister’s confirmation that the Copdock interchange is being looked at. Further to the important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), every Member who has a constituency that crosses the A14 would agree that investment in all aspects of the road, including junction 10A, is vital. It is a key gateway from the midlands to Felixstowe. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are looking not just at the projects that he has outlined, but at additional future projects? This is about supporting British manufacturing, house building growth and the British economy. Many of us who represent A14 constituencies do not feel that the road has had the focus that it deserves.

My hon. Friend makes some excellent points. I am trying to highlight the strategic national importance of the route. I know that my hon. Friend and MPs from across the region have been campaigning on this issue. There are definitely further schemes in the pipeline that are currently being looked at, and I would be delighted to discuss them with him further at a later date.

Although the strategic national case for this vital road transport corridor between the north, the midlands and the east of England is clear, its role in the places and communities it passes through along its length is also vital, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering recognises. Kettering, Barton Seagrave, Cranford and Burton Latimer are all important towns along the route that all deserve to be properly served. That is exactly what the proposed A14 junction 10A would help to achieve, making lives in the communities served by the A14 better.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, it would also support the development of approximately 5,500 much-needed homes and associated infrastructure to the east of Kettering, with new schools, shops, community buildings and, importantly, jobs, unlocking investment into this stretch of the important strategic road network. I am pleased to hear that this is a sustainable, mixed-used development, with new schools, shops and leisure facilities that are easily accessible for new residents, and that it is tied into the historic town of Kettering.

Successful development depends on a network that makes connections to destinations, places and communities that are further afield. Alongside rail and the local road network, the strategic road network provides critical links between our cities and other urban areas, connecting our communities and families, providing job opportunities, and binding and strengthening our Union, as well as driving productivity and prosperity by unlocking growth, encouraging trade, attracting investment and playing a vital role in levelling up across the country. That is why the A14 is so important.

We all agree that a reliable and resilient transport network is a catalyst for growth. However, making transformative investments in the fabric of our transport network requires long-term thinking and planning, as has certainly been the case with this piece of development. That rationale underpins RIS2, which we are currently in and which has delivered record levels of investment in the motorways and trunk networks of England. In the first RIS strategy, £17.6 billion was committed; since then, we have gone even further and are now investing £24 billion between 2024 and 2025 as part of RIS2. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering to use his good offices to lobby the Treasury to ensure we can increase the level of investment into RIS3 for his scheme, and many others across the country.

Our first priority is the safe operation, maintenance and renewal of the existing network, including by beginning multi-road period programmes of structural renewals where the network is reaching the end of its design life. Even so, in the current period more than £10 billion is being spent on significant improvements to the performance and safety of the network, through enhancements that support the Government’s levelling-up agenda and underpin national and regional growth. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering that there is clearly a strong economic case for junction 10A of the A14 and, from what I have seen, it presents a good cost-benefit ratio and value for money for the taxpayer.

As my hon. Friend is well aware, preparations for the third road investment strategy—RIS3—are well under way, with the A14 junction 10A scheme forming part of the pipeline of more than 30 major projects that are currently being considered for possible construction beyond 2025. The decisions on which pipeline schemes to progress will need to be taken in the round as part of the wider development of RIS3 funding, in the light of the funding headroom available.

In respect of my hon. Friend’s local project, it is important that, unlike many other projects throughout the country, half the cost is due to be met by local developers. That further strengthens the case for the junction. The case for the project is clear, and Hanwood Park and National Highways have been working closely to build a robust business case for the proposals. The key objectives of the project are to support the sustainable development of much-needed homes in the area and to facilitate economic growth in the region. In achieving that, the safety and performance of the existing network needs to be maintained, mindful of the route’s key national strategic role, and negative impacts on users, communities and the environment must be kept to a minimum during construction.

Considerable effort and work is required to develop major projects from the ground up and, as I have said previously, when dealing with the significant sums involved, investment decisions cannot be taken in isolation. Ultimately, decisions on the balance of RIS3, and possible enhancement schemes to be included in it, will sadly not be finalised until the strategy is published in 2024. We are hoping to open that up to bids in the coming months. The core principle of our strategy is to create a safe, accessible and reliable road network that meets the needs of all road users and drives important economic growth across the country.

I am listening to the Minister’s remarks with great interest and appreciate the attention to detail he is applying to junction 10A. Is he aware of perhaps the most important point of all? On its present trajectory, Hanwood Park will reach its ceiling of 2,700 houses in 2026. Not one further home will be built after that date, unless funding for junction 10A comes from the Government. Unless the Government come up with the cash, no more than 2,700 homes will be built on that estate in Kettering. That will make it far more difficult for the Government to achieve their housing objectives.

My hon. Friend made that point clearly in his speech and I will take it away. There is a timescale for the RIS3 projects. Given the level of development that has already gone into the scheme, as part of the investment strategy through the five-year period, the requirements will put it clearly towards the front if funding is made available.

I thank my hon. Friend again for securing this debate and for his exemplary efforts to support the proposals on behalf of his constituents. I also take the opportunity to be clear that I recognise the strong case for the proposals and the many benefits they will unlock for Kettering and the surrounding area. I will ensure that my officials and National Highways work closely with Hanwood Park as the case for the scheme is developed further, and that my hon. Friend is fully engaged in that process. I also encourage him to meet further with the project teams for the scheme at National Highways for a more detailed briefing in future months. I will happily facilitate that.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to press the case for the scheme on behalf of his constituents and the businesses that he serves in his constituency. Although I cannot give him the firm commitment that he is naturally after today, given the unique funding nature of the project, the strong local and national economic significance of the A14 and the good benefit-to-cost ratio, the people of Kettering can be assured that it will be looked at very favourably in the funding rounds to come. The people of Kettering could not have a better champion, and I look forward to working closely with my hon. Friend as the investment plan for RIS3 is developed over the coming months.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended.