HC Deb 04 February 1976 vol 904 cc1175-7
4. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are his latest plans for freeing historic cities from heavy long-distance road traffic.

The Minister for Transport (Dr. John Gilbert)

The Department's road programme includes plans for bypassing another 20 historic towns and villages by the early 1980s. Proposals for a national system of lorry routes which would help to keep heavy lorries away from environmentally sensitive areas if they have no business to transact there, were announced to the House on 22nd January and are to be discussed with the organisations concerned.

Mr. Lane

Will the Minister confirm that, whatever may be the effect of the Government's public expenditure review on the whole national road programme, the relief of historic cities, including my own constituency, will continue to be given the highest priority?

Dr. Gilbert

I have no difficulty whatever in accepting the hon. Gentleman's proposition.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Will my hon. Friend also plan to free citizens—historic and younger ones—from the pollution, mutilation and death coming from heavy lorries using residential streets which they were never intended to use?

Dr. Gilbert

I thoroughly endorse my hon. Friend's sentiments, but I must point out to him that local authorities already have power to deal with problems like this in residential areas.

Sir W. Elliott

Will the Minister bear in mind the present problems in the historic city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne where the improvement in the urban motorway system has led to considerable difficulty, as he knows, in the environment of Newcastle-upon-Tyne? Will he consider in such circumstances giving a high priority to heavy lorries avoiding residential areas?

Dr. Gilbert

I am certainly aware of the difficulties in the Gosforth area. Those difficulties are being studied.

Mr. Jay

Would it not be wise for my hon. Friend to give priority in road building schemes to areas where there is a local demand for them rather than to areas where there is a great deal of local opposition?

Dr. Gilbert

As my right hon. Friend will realise, the difficulty is that there is often a demand for schemes which are resented by those on whom the impact is more immediate. Part of the difficulty is to weigh the national claims and claims for schemes from different areas against the claims of quite legitimate local objections.

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