HC Deb 18 April 1957 vol 568 cc2192-6
Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) has already spoken to the Motion which is before the House, but if he asks the leave of the House, I do not think that any hon. Member present will refuse him that leave.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

I beg to ask leave to speak again. The matter which I wish to raise is a problem of long standing. In September, 1954, the Kingsteignton Parish Council, in my constituency, asked the Devon County Council to reintroduce a 30 m.p.h. speed limit on the road from Kingsteignton to Newton Abbot. In December of that year, the county council replied to the effect that, as the police agreed, an order for extending the speed limit from the bus garage to the Pottery Cottages would be made and, naturally, submitted to the Ministry of Transport for confirmation. From that moment, while correspondence passed between the two councils, nothing concrete appeared to happen.

On 10th July, 1956, I wrote to the then Parliamentary Secretary, my right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Works, and on 1st October I received a reply. It was a very full one, and it agreed to extend the speed limit by 200 yards. While this was certainly a move in the right direction, I was not completely satisfied, neither was the parish council who had originally raised the question. I therefore wrote again and received a reply from my hon. Friend the present Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who gave a number of accident statistics, but not the answer I wanted namely, the full length covered by the county council order.

The road to which I refer is part of route A.380 between Kingsteignton and Newton Abbot. It carries all traffic between Exeter and the Torbay area. Naturally, during the season, it carries very heavy tourist traffic. At the moment, the road is restricted from the northern outskirts of Kingsteignton to a point just beyond a Y-junction. The road is again restricted at traffic lights on the outskirts of Newton Abbot where Torbay traffic is diverted to the left to miss the centre of the town. Between these two points is about 1,200 yards of de-restricted road, which is the part with which I am concerned. The extra 200 yards in respect of which the Minister agreed would cover the entrance of a recent development—St. Michael's Road—and also the caravan site which is opposite, but it would still leave out the Pottery Cottages.

I agree with my hon. Friend when he states in his letters to me that there is a footpath on one side or the other of this length of road, but on the number of occasions when I have walked the length of road I have found that the pavement ends on the west side and begins on the east side at a point where, unfortunately, visibility is most restricted.

My hon. Friend is probably acting upon advice when he suggests to me that the road is practically straight, but I can say from experience that, in crossing the road where the pavement terminates to the other side of the road where it begins again, one's ears are certainly as essential as one's eyes. The row of terraced houses which we know locally as the Pottery Cottages are on the west side of the road opposite the Pottery Works. In my opinion, they are in a very unfortunate position.

The residents who wish to catch a bus to Newton Abbot must cross the road, and, as there is no footpath on the east side at that point, they have to stand in the road against the pottery boundary wall where they are an easy target for any vehicle which comes round the bend hugging the Pottery boundary wall. Children from those cottages must cross the road on their way to school if they are either to walk on the pavement all the way or are to face the oncoming traffic, which, naturally, we are told we ought to do when not walking on the pavement. Similarly, all the mothers with their prams who go to Newton Abbot to shop must cross the road at least once if they are to use the pavement. If they do not they take grave risks.

I agree that beyond the Pottery Cottages there is no justification for a speed limit. The road is in no sense built up beyond the Pottery Cottages. Moreover, as the police always regulate the traffic on days when Newton Abbot races take place, one realises that there is no need to restrict the traffic beyond that point, but I do feel that the occupants of Pottery Cottages deserve more consideration than has been shown to them up to now.

I understand that the parish council is hoping to get a bus bay on the site, which would certainly ease the position, because it would save people from having to stand in the road while waiting for a bus; but that is another matter. I do ask my hon. Friend, in the light of the facts I have put to him, to consider his decision.

4.36 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) on securing part of the Adjournment—I was going to say at the eleventh hour, but it is not quite that—at the last hour in which he could raise this matter before the Easter Recess, and upon using his opportunity so profitably to express the grievances and complaints of his constituents in Kingsteignton.

This stretch of road, as he rightly says, has been a source of trouble for some little time. It is one of those problem areas. It stretches from the limit of the 30 m.p.h. restriction in Kingsteignton— from the bus garage my hon. Friend mentioned just a short distance south of, the road junction where the road bifurcates to Exeter and Teignmouth—to the northern limits of Newton Abbot, where the 30 m.p.h. limit comes on again.

It is true that Devon County Council, which is the highway authority, supported by the police, has applied for this extension southwards from the bus garage to a point 619 yards southward of that point, to cover both the Newton Abbot Potteries and Pottery Cottages. My predecessor, the Minister of Works, agreed, as my hon. Friend has said, in a letter in October of last year to an extension of the speed limit to a point 200 yards south from the bus garage. This, as my hon. Friend has said, covers the recent development in Kingsteignton village, including the entrance to the caravan sites. Extension beyond this point was refused because of the relatively open nature of the road. It is not a matter of the road's being straight or bending slightly. It is a case of its relatively open nature.

My hon. Friend and, indeed, through him, the Kingsteignton Parish Council, is now asking me to reverse this decision to extend the 30 m.p.h. limit to the point asked for by the Devon County Council.

He referred to the accident record of this road in the past six years. It amounts to fifteen. We have carefully analysed those accidents and have found that speed was a factor in six out of the fifteen. Every accident, of course, is serious, but I must make the point to my hon. Friend that, despite the seriousness of this record, five accidents in two years on average is not high, unfortunately, for this class of road.

I should like to say a few words about our general policy on 30 m.p.h. limits. It has been the policy of my Ministry for some years to allow the establishment of the 30 m.p.h. limit only in areas which are genuinely built-up areas with a view to restricting it to stretches of roads where the majority of motorists will voluntarily comply. Research has shown that the introduction of speed limits on roads which are not really built up does not reduce the average speed of vehicles. It leads only, despite assiduous enforcement, to a general breach of the regulations.

When they see an open stretch of road, motorists naturally tend to drive a little faster, though not necessarily dangerously. On stretches of road like that, however effective the enforcement, it is not possible to stop traffic travelling fast. If 30 m.p.h. limits are established in non-built-up areas, the effectiveness of the restriction is weakened everywhere by drivers increasingly ignoring the limit. That in turn would have repercussions on the observance of 30 m.p.h. limits in truly built-up areas, to the detriment of pedestrians and of road safety throughout the country. Consequently, our general policy over the years has been firm against 30 m.p.h. limits in non-built-up areas.

This stretch of road south of Kingsteignton to the outskirts of Newton Abbot is not really built up, and in the main gives the impression of a fairly open road. It is just the kind of road that we want to avoid restricting, because of the probability that the majority of drivers would ignore the restriction, in which case, far from increasing the safety of pedestrians, it would give them an unwarranted sense of security, because motorists would continue to drive at the same speed, and at the same time it would weaken the general effectiveness of this road safety device.

I well understand the desire of the people of Kingsteington, especially the residents of Pottery Cottages, for increased road safety and the reduction of accidents there, and I sympathise with their natural anxiety about their children. I am anxious to do anything possible to reduce the dangers of this road. I am also anxious that my hon. Friend and local residents should understand that the establishment of a 30 m.p.h. limit will not necessarily do that. We are not persuaded that in this case it would do so.

My hon. Friend has referred to certain road improvements that might help. The construction of a waiting bay for the bus has been suggested. That would certainly help. Then there is the extension of the pavement on the opposite side of the road to the cottages. That would also help. These, of course, will be works for the highway authority, the Devon County Council, to do on this Class I road and, other things being equal, we should give a grant of 75 per cent. towards the work. Possibly, central islands might be considered, but I am rather doubtful whether the road is wide enough for them. The long-term solution here is that there should be dual carriageways. That is in the development plan. In that event, pedestrians crossing the road would only have to look one way as they crossed each section but that, I am afraid, is not likely to happen for some years.

But I have listened to my hon. Friend's plea and have given due weight to it, and indeed to the feeling of the local people, taking into account that our decision not to extend the 30 m.p.h. limit is contrary to the view of the county highway authority, the Devon County Council. In the circumstances, the best solution is to order a public inquiry on the spot. That I am prepared to do without delay and we will study the problem afresh in the light of the report upon it. The various points which I have mentioned about a waiting bay, extension of the pavement, etc., can be examined at the same time. I am anxious to do everything we can to find the best solution here, and one which will carry public confidence in the neighbourhood.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at a quarter to Five o'clock, till Tuesday, 30th April, pursuant to the Resolution of the House yesterday.