HC Deb 09 April 1984 vol 58 cc9-10
10. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in reaching decisions on the M65 motorway link to the M6 and other motorway improvements in the north-west.

Mrs. Chalker

We have made substantial progress in analysing the additional information on traffic, economies, and costs which we required in order to make a sound decision on Lancashire county council's case for the green route to the M6.

Mr. Pike

Is the Minister aware that all councils, political parties and industries in north-east Lancashire are anxiously expecting this long-awaited decision? They recognise that communications are essential if north-east Lancashire is to survive and experience an economic recovery, and look forward to an early and favourable decision.

Mrs. Chalker

I understand the impatience over a decision. Examination of the county council's report has, however, been a time-consuming and complex matter. I have received many representations both for and against the green route. I shall consider them all carefully before coming to a decision, which I hope to make fairly shortly.

Mr. Thurnham

Is my hon. Friend aware of the benefits that would come to industry in Bolton with the improvement of the motorway connection, especially to the container port at Seaforth?

Mrs. Chalker

I am aware of that aspect. That is one matter that I shall take into account when making my decision.

Mr. Straw

Is the Minister aware that the residents of Brownhill, Pleckgate Revidge and the Green Bank areas in Blackburn have suffered increasing anxiety during the past four years since the original decision to cancel the link between the M65 at Blackburn and the M6 near Preston? What does the Minister mean by saying that "fairly shortly" she will make a decision? Will that decision be taken before or after May?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to look into a crystal ball which has not yet been completely formed. I understand the anxieties of the people of Brownhill. As I have said to the hon. Gentleman during meetings, some improvement at Brownhill will be needed, regardless of the decision on the green route. I shall come to a decision as soon as I can. I should not like to estimate whether it will be in six weeks or longer, because of the complexity of the information that is currently with the officers in my Department.

Mr. Dover

Will my hon. Friend confirm that a strong body of opinion believes that there should not he a dual carriageway link to the M6 south of Preston, but that it would be better to upgrade the routes to the centre of Preston, as my hon. Friend and her predecessor have said on earlier occasions.

Mrs. Chalker

Representations have been made both for and against a dual carriageway route to the M6. Considerable anxieties have been expressed about the link between the M6 and the M61 and the bypass to the south of Preston. All those matters must be taken into account before I can decide whether to go forward with the green route.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

With regard to the improvement of motorways in the north-west of England, what date does the Minister have in mind for the start of work on the last remaining link of the M66 between Middleton and Denton?

Mrs. Chalker

There is quite a long way to go before we can take a decision on that matter, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with the latest available information.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend recognise that those of my constituents who are likely to be affected by this route share the view of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the green route is the obvious answer? My constituents will not thank her or anyone else in the Department if they choose the alternative, which would damage an already overcrowded road and property, including the 13th century Samlesbury hall.

Mrs. Chalker

We must take account of all matters, such as ancient buildings and famous places, as well as the need to get traffic to ports as quickly and easily as possible. Many other considerations are involved in coming to this quite difficult decision. I believe that all hon. Members representing the area have now either met or had extensive correspondence with me on this matter. I ask them to be patient for a few more weeks until we have completed our investigations.