HC Deb 18 July 1994 vol 247 cc7-8
4. Mr. Alison

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the beneficial effect on historic buildings of the removal of heavy traffic from towns and villages by diverting it on to new bypasses.

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key)

Right hon. and hon. Members throughout the House remind me ceaselessly of the benefits of bypasses, for both the buildings and the people of communities living with high levels of through traffic.

Mr. Alison

Representing, as he does, a cathedral city, will my hon. Friend harness his natural ecclesiastical sympathies to his considerable political weight to expedite the day when Selby abbey is embellished and protected by the Selby bypass?

Mr. Key

Yes, of course I will. Since the memorable delegation that my right hon. Friend brought to see me last year, progress has been made. The forces of nature, however, cannot be ignored and, in engineering terms, the scheme is particularly difficult. There have been problems with ground work, but I hope that compulsory purchase orders can be published in the autumn.

Mr. Flynn

Does not the Minister realise that growth in traffic has meant that bypasses are being deserted and that traffic is going back into the historic heart of cities, poisoning the people there with an unprecedented mixture of carcinogens, benzenes, and PM10s? All are produced and pumped out into the atmosphere. They are then held in place by a lid of barometric pressure and a windless day, and are cooked by the sunshine. We are creating a lethal cocktail for our people to breathe in and we do not yet know the results of the inquiry into what happened in December 1991. As this enormously dangerous, uncontrolled experiment is occurring in our cities every fine day, how on earth can we contemplate doubling the growth of traffic?

Mr. Key

The answer to the second question is, easily; the answer to the first is, can the hon. Gentleman name one?

Mr. Wolfson

Does my hon. Friend agree that when new bypasses are built or motorways widened, one of the continuing problems is that of noise? Does he support my contention that, where possible, quieter road surfaces should be used? Porous asphalt, in particular, is a positive move forward and we want much more of it.

Mr. Key

Of course my hon. Friend is right. Noise can be an abomination and can ruin the quality of life of many people. But my hon. Friend should not rely only on porous asphalt. Technology is on our side and even better surfaces are now being developed. For example, whisper concrete is not only quieter but lasts many times as long as porous asphalt, which means that roads do not have to be dug up as often.