HC Deb 13 July 1999 vol 335 cc155-6
9. Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)

What guidance his Department gives to local authorities on the location of park-and-ride schemes. [89483]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

Our guidance emphasises that schemes must be carefully designed and located to reduce traffic flows. They should be considered on their merits, case by case, and assessments should include consideration of alternative sites and the impact on local amenity.

Mr. Atkinson

What advice can the Minister offer local authorities such as Bournemouth, which face a choice between creating a park-and-ride terminus and protecting what is left of the green belt? Which should be their priority?

Ms Jackson

Existing guidance is clear. The use of green belt for a park-and-ride site should be examined exceedingly closely. Park and ride is not an appropriate use for green-belt land unless the benefits that would accrue are overwhelming.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Is my hon. Friend disappointed by the fact that there are too few park-and-ride schemes, which do a tremendous amount to reduce traffic congestion in our town centres? What steps can the Government take to encourage more local authorities to develop schemes to reduce congestion and improve public transport in town centres?

Ms Jackson

If there is a shortage of park-and-ride sites, it is yet another result of 18 wasted years of Conservative Government. They did nothing to create a properly integrated public transport system but, since coming into office, this Government have asked local authorities to prioritise the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Authorities will submit local integrated transport plans this month, and we shall look out for schemes of the kind referred to by my hon. Friend, if they are appropriate to the local area.

Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney)

The Minister has a great deal of enthusiasm for park-and-ride schemes, but park-and-ride transport strategies across the country are bringing cities such as Oxford to a standstill. The Council for the Protection of Rural England has criticised the damage done to green-field sites by park and ride. Transport 2000 has criticised the Government for cooking the books by misusing figures relating to park and ride. A new report from the university of London severely criticises park-and-ride schemes, arguing that traffic in urban areas increases—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House is quite right to become restless as we have not yet heard a question from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Woodward

With all that criticism of park and ride, will the Minister now review the policy and apologise to the people of Oxford for the considerable inconvenience that she has caused?

Ms Jackson

What I am aware of, as indeed the entire House and the whole country will be, is that the hon. Gentleman is simply not up to his brief. It is not the case that the park-and-ride scheme in Oxford has been anything other than a success. Not only is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the success of such schemes, but he is equally unaware of the Conservative party's newly announced policy in which it claims that such schemes should be provided free.