HC Deb 09 April 1968 vol 762 cc1229-32

The local planning authority shall have power to operate or promote a public transport service whenever in their judgment such a service would overcome congestion arising from private vehicles in a National Park.—[Mr. Peter M. Jackson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

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

I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the situation referred to in the new Clause has already arisen. There has been published recently—within the last two years—a traffic survey undertaken by the local planning authorities of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, and the conclusion of the report is that by 1984 it will be necessary to bring about a complete restriction on vehicular traffic within National Parks.

I will not detain the House very long in moving this new Clause, because I think the need for such services is self-evident. I should, nevertheless, like to support the argument by quoting one set of figures.

In 1960 there were something like 15,250,000 people living within three hours of the Lake District. By 1974 it is estimated that this figure will have risen to 21,500,000, and by the year 2010, it will have risen to 25,500,000.

The Lake District, as perhaps many hon. Members will know, is very small, and obviously it would not be possible to accommodate the number of vehicles likely to arise from this growing population. It will, therefore, be necessary to impose the kind of restriction which the planning authority envisage having to impose by 1984. Although they envisage the possibility of introducing this restriction, they must nevertheless cater for the needs of tourists, and they suggest that tourists will park their cars at large car parks on the perimeter of the park and then transfer to various forms of public transport.

It is quite probable that this public transport—minibuses or ordinary buses—will require public subsidy of some kind, and it is for this reason I move this new Clause tonight.

As I understand it, the National Park authorities do not have the power under existing legislation to pay such subsidies. I should like to see them given such power.

After tabling this new Clause, I had drawn to my attention the excellent provisions of Clause 34 of the Transport Bill, and I understand that this Clause will allow county and county district councils to assist in the provision of rural bus services, and if this is done, assistance will be given by the Ministry of Transport to the extent of some 50 per cent.

The point may well be met through the provisions of this Clause, perhaps in preference to the new Clause which I am moving. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will say something about the powers which National Park authorities will have in the future to meet this growing problem.

Mr. Skeffington

My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) has raised a very interesting point.

Generally speaking, I should have thought that there was not much need for this sort of provision because there is a multiplicity of services, provided either by large companies, some of which are publicly owned, or by private operators, and of course, in certain areas by local authorities themselves. But authorities in National Parks of course do not have these powers. With the tremendous growth in motor traffic near these delightful areas, nearly everyone wants some restrictions, and there might be a case for minibuses. We might look at this, but any provision would not be outside the general traffic commissioner licensing regulations, which are a necessary safeguard and important rationalising element.

Some provision like this was made in the Lea Valley Regional Park Act, 1966, which was a useful experiment. I can go no further than that, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will realise that for a few highly specialised areas the door is not closed.

Mr. Jopling

I will have to oppose the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) for what is, I think, the first time in our consideration of the Bill. I am aware of the survey two or three years ago by Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire County Councils and the proposal of minibuses, which would be essential to take people to beauty spots like Tam Hows, near Hawkshead, or the Little Langdale-Blea Tam-Great Langdale circuit.

The Parliamentary Secretary was a little misleading in talking about public transport, since this would be a special service, with minibuses whisking people from the main car parks to the beauty spots. An immediate problem is that the car parks would have to be vast and within the National Parks themselves. In the first example I gave, for instance, there would have to be something at Hawkshead, and, for the other circuit, there would have to be something at Ambleside. Such huge car parks would be undesirable. This congestion happens only at weekends, and the Lake District season lasts only four or five weeks, and only three or four days a week, so the minibuses would be idle—filling the car parks—for most of the year and most of the season.

They would be only relatively economic in getting people about, because, since a car holds about four people and a minibus 12, one bus would replace only three cars. This is not a striking saving of vehicles using these narrow roads. Considering the enormous losses which would occur, I do not believe that the project would be worth while. I am dubious about the scheme and, while something must be done about the traffic stagnation in the Lake District, being the representative of part of that area I am not sure that this would be the way to tackle the problem.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I hope that the Minister will look further into the proposal, despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling). I have considerable knowledge of the Lake District and other National Park areas and I should have thought that the Langdale and Little Langdale areas, including Wasdale, would benefit from such a scheme. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will carry out the undertaking he gave.

Mr. Peter M. Jackson

In view of my hon. Friend's reasonable reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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