HC Deb 01 July 1994 vol 245 cc1119-20 2.22 pm
Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

I beg to move, That this House recognises the widespread support for the long-awaited bypasses for Deepings and Stamford in South Lincolnshire; notes that these roads would result in fewer casualties in road accidents and reduced noise and other pollution in residential areas; looks forward to the improvements to the quality of life for residents of Deepings and Stamford that would be brought about by these roads; believes that these bypasses are essential if the economic growth of South Lincolnshire is to be maintained; considers that it is in the national interest that the great historic and architectural heritage of Stamford, the first conservation area in the United Kingdom, is preserved and protected from the blight and depredations of heavy through traffic; supports the case for the urgent imposition of a weight restriction on vehicles traversing Stamford's ancient town bridge; and urges that the Highways Agency should give both bypass schemes the highest priority. I am grateful for the opportunity to move the motion and to raise the issue of Deepings and Stamford bypasses, the related issue of weight restrictions on Stamford bridge, and the wider issue of roads in south Lincolnshire.

The inadequacy of our roads for the burdens placed on them is far and away the greatest and most sensitive local issue in south Lincolnshire, and has been for years. One peculiarity of south Lincolnshire is that, since the invention of the motor car, only one new road has been constructed—the A1, in the 1960s. Another road, the Spalding bypass, is under construction, but the lack of provision of road infrastructure contrasts sharply with most parts of the country, whether the south-east, the north, Scotland or elsewhere.

The consequence is that south Lincolnshire's roads are woefully inadequate for the needs of the time. Traffic is constantly stalled in jams, and small towns and villages are bearing a burden of constant, heavy through traffic throughout the day, which it is unreasonable to expect local people to bear. There is also a great problem with pollution and noise in residential areas. Businesses tell me that they are frequently deterred from investing in what is otherwise a most attractive part of the world because of the inadequacy of road communications and the time that it takes for a lorry to get to a workshop or plant.

Worst of all, of course, is the human problem of accidents. There have been some very bad accidents recently, a number of them involving children. Children have been killed. In the past few days there has been a very sad accident in Deepings involving a small girl; fortunately she was not killed, but a constituent from whom I received a letter yesterday wrote that the thud of the poor child's head on the windscreen of the car that hit her was a sound that she hoped never to hear again. It is strongly felt that we should have the new roads that have been so woefully lacking.

I was greatly encouraged when, following a number of conversations between myself and Lord Parkinson—then Secretary of State for Transport—provision was made in the 1988 Government road programme for a Stamford bypass relief road and a Deepings bypass. Subsequently, the plan for a Stamford bypass was set aside pending decisions on the upgrading of the A1 to motorway status, and no progress has been made over the past four of five years. That was very disappointing. Next came a bolt from the blue, which caused enormous consternation in Stamford: the bypass was simply taken out of the Government's road programme when it was revised in March this year.

As for Deepings, it has been waiting for a bypass since the 1930s; I believe that the initial plans date from 1931. Again, it was greatly encouraging when the bypass was included in the 1988 Government road programme, and construction was expected to start this year. There was just as much consternation, therefore, when it was decided not to exclude the bypass from the road programme altogether but to place it in category 3 of the Highway Agency's new priority system.

My hon. Friend the Minister, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), has been extremely sympathetic to the many representations that I have made to him, and visited both Stamford and Deepings a few weeks ago—visits that were greatly appreciated by local residents. He has been able to reassure me on a number of matters in the past few days, for which I am deeply grateful. I told him that, because of the short time available and the assurances that he had already given me, the last thing I wanted was for him to spend the morning here when he had urgent business elsewhere.

My hon. Friend has assured me that he will issue orders to place a weight restriction on Stamford bridge, the ancient bridge—Stamford's only one—that runs through the centre of that historic town. Such action will immediately provide some welcome relief. My hon. Friend has given me an undertaking that the possibility of returning the Stamford bypass to the Government road programme, with a view to relatively rapid construction, will be considered at the next opportunity—at the beginning of next year.

I have also heard from my hon. Friend's officials that they are urgently considering—on his direct instructions—the possibility of giving the Deepings bypass a measure of priority. That, I think, is considered thoroughly warranted by everyone in south Lincolnshire and, indeed, every expert who has viewed the situation from outside.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on a matter that remains extremely pertinent, and for the understanding and support of the Minister and his officials.

2.23 pm
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

My constituency contains a few streets on the very edge of Stamford. It will come as no surprise that my constituents, too, have not been slow in writing to me about the problems that they encounter, such as congestion, when driving into Stamford. However, I am happy to play second fiddle to my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies)—not just because most of the problems that beset us are more in his constituency than mine, but because the manner in which he has taken up the issue on behalf of his constituents provides a case study of how it should be done. Any student of parliamentary behaviour should study the manner in which he has represented his constituents, which is an example of how a case can be brought to Ministers' attention and action taken.

I have enough problems in my constituency in trying to get the Oakham bypass, but my hon. Friend's constituents and mine will be pleased to hear the news that my hon. Friend gave the House of the very good prospect of placing proper weight restrictions on the streets through Stamford.

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.