HC Deb 30 May 1956 vol 553 cc326-30

(1) The highway authority for any road repairable by the inhabitants at large shall have power to construct and maintain works in the carriageway․

  1. (a) along any length of road for separating a part of the road which is to be used by traffic moving in one direction from a part of the road which is to be used (whether at all times or at particular times only) by traffic moving in the other;
  2. (b) at cross roads or other road junctions. for regulating the movement of traffic;
  3. (c) for providing places of refuge for the protection of foot passengers crossing the road.

(2) The powers conferred by the last foregoing subsection shall include power to light any such works as aforesaid, to pave, grass or otherwise cover them or any part of them, to erect pillars, walls, rails, or other fences on, around or across them or any part of them and to plant on them trees, shrubs and other vegetation either for ornament or in the interests of safety.

(3) The power conferred by the foregoing provisions of this section to construct any works shall include power to alter or remove them.

(4) As respects any road in a borough or urban district, being a road for which the council of the borough or district are not the highway authority, and as respects any road in a rural district, the powers of a highway authority under this section may be exercised with that authority's consent by the council of the borough or urban or rural district as the case may be.

(5) The power of the Minister to make advances under section eight of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909 (which relates, among other things, to grants for road improvements) shall include power to make advances to a highway authority, or to the council of a borough or urban district, in respect of any work, beyond ordinary repairs essential to placing a road in a proper state of repair, done in the exercise of the powers conferred by the foregoing provisions of this section; and accordingly, in relation to any advances made by virtue of this subsection, the reference in subsection (4) of the said section eight to a highway authority shall be construed as including a reference to the council of a borough or urban district.

(6) Part II of the Public Utilities Street Works Act, 1950, and the Fourth Schedule to that Act (which provide a code regulating the relations between authorities carrying out alterations to road and statutory undertakers having apparatus in those roads) shall have effect as if the works mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section twenty-one of that Act included any such work as is mentioned in the last foregoing subsection executed (whether or not for road purposes as defined in that Act) by or on behalf of any authority mentioned in that paragraph or a rural district council.

(7) The following provisions:— in the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890, in section thirty-nine the words "or places of refuge" and the words from "or for the purpose" to the end of the section; in the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1903, in section fourteen the words "or may provide island platforms for pedestrians"; in section fifty-five of the Act of 1930, the words from "erect" to "road, and"; in subsection (2) of section fifty-seven of the Act of 1930, the words "places of refuge in roads, and",

shall cease to have effect; and anything done before the corning into operation of this section, otherwise than in pursuance of powers conferred by the said section thirty-nine, fourteen or fifty-five, which could lawfully have been done under powers conferred by this section if it had then been in force shall be treated as if this section had been in force when it was done.

(8) In the application of this section to Scotland, in subsection (1) for the words from "The highway authority" to "power", there shall be substituted the words "The Secretary of State or any county or town council shall have power, in respect of any road for the maintenance and repair of which he or any such council are responsible", and for subsection (5) there shall be substituted the following subsection:— (5) The power of the Secretary of State to make advances under section eight of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, shall include power to make advances to the council of a county or of a large burgh as defined in the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, in respect of any work, beyond ordinary repairs essential to placing a road in a proper state of repair, done in the exercise of the powers conferred by the foregoing provisions of this section".—[Mr. Watkinson]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Watkinson

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This is not the correction of an oversight, but rather something which, as the Bill was going through the House, it seemed wise to insert. Perhaps I may briefly give the Committee the background. We are now at the beginning of a very large road programme for this country, and, although no doubt it will not develop as quickly as some people would like, none the less I think many fair-minded people will be surprised in the next year or so as they see the buildup in road schemes that will follow from works which are now being started or soon will be started.

The point is that all these schemes, or the majority of the important ones, will be for double-track highways, and here we are beginning to create in this country a new kind of idea which the experts call the central reservation; that is, the strip of land which runs down the centre of double-track highways. In making our plans for these new roads, and for example, in considering the Cromwell Road extension, which as I think all hon. Members know is a double-track route for the major part of its length, certain doubts have been brought to our attention by the legal experts as to who really owns these reservations and who, indeed, has proper powers over them.

It is not a great point, but the purpose of this Clause is, frankly, to put beyond legal doubt the powers of the highway authorities to construct and alter certain road works which have in practice for long been regarded as essential features, but which recent legal advice has held to have no clear statutory sanction.

This new Clause makes it clear that the central reservation—the strips of grass or concrete, sometimes planted with trees—can be dealt with in ways which are necessary. It deals, for example, with such matters as lighting and fencing. I regard the latter as a very important one from the road safety point of view. Fences on these central reservations would prevent children from running across the road at dangerous points. It is much easier to fence central reservations—and sometimes it is the only way to fence a road—rather than have fences along each side of the road. It is these things which we are putting beyond doubt in this Clause. If there are any other points which hon. Members wish to raise, I shall be pleased to try to answer them, but I have explained the general purpose—the useful and necessary purpose—of this new Clause.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I am glad to have the Minister's explanation, because when I read the new Clause it surprised me to see that this power was necessary. I wondered what the position was. However, with the explanation I am quite satisfield. The Minister says that we have now embarked upon a very large road programme. I would seriously challenge that statement. While there is some work being done at present—and we are very glad of that—the fact remains that the amount of money we are spending on road construction is very small indeed compared with that which is spent not only in the U.S.A. but on the Continent. We on this side certainly desire that programme to go ahead, and if the new Clause will in any way facilitate it so much the better.

Mr. Royle

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee what progress is being made with the beautification of the roads? Is better progress being made with it?

Mr. Watkinson

That is a relevant question, for the plans for beautifying these new roads will have to include plans for the treatment of the central reservations. It may interest the Committee to know that the island at the Gunnersbury end of the Cromwell Road extension, where there will be a fly-over, will be no less than two acres in extent; that is, the central reservation will be two acres in extent. That, of course, will have to be landscaped. I would take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Mr. Bowes-Lyon for kindly accepting the chairmanship of the new committee I have just set up, and which is charged with the most important task of seeing that as the new roads are built— and they will be built—landscaping treatment is given to them.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.