HL Deb 07 December 1965 vol 271 cc102-3

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration has been given to the construction of a half-mile long tunnel beneath the escarpment near the Stokenchurch spur of the A.40 Motorway, in order to preserve the Chiltern woodlands from further road building and when this tunnel is likely to be completed.]


My Lords, the Surveyor of the Oxfordshire County Council, as my right honourable friend's agent authority, and engineers of the Ministry have under consideration alternative proposals for future improvement of the A.40 road crossing the Chilterns. These include a tunnel. The cost and the implications of all the alternatives must be known before any proposals can be published, but it is unlikely that a major scheme could be started before the early 1970's.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, so far as it goes, may I ask him whether he will confirm that this tunnel project is fully endorsed by all the local authorities in that area, and by many national organisations, such as the National Trust and the Nature Conservancy Board? And is it not a fact that, for a meagre increase of 3 per cent. on the original estimates for building this road, the risk of road accidents could be minimised and one of the loveliest stretches of our countryside preserved?


My Lords, one agrees that this is a most beautiful part of this country of ours, and, as the noble Lord has suggested, part of it is a nature reserve and another part belongs to the National Trust. There have already been meetings between the Divisional Road Engineer and the County Surveyor, and the views of all those concerned—the Nature Conservancy Board, the National Trust, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Chiltern Society and the Bucks., Berks, and Oxfordshire Naturalists' Trust—have been considered and will continue to be taken into consideration as the scheme progresses.


Would my noble friend not agree that this project merits a far higher degree of priority than beginning in the early 1970's?


My Lords, the more objections there are, the more it will be delayed. On the A.40 there is the section from the Wheatley bypass to the Lambert Arms, which we are to start in 1968, and the High Wycombe bypass is already under construction. This stretch across the Chilterns will then be quite a bottleneck, because the other two sections of new road will have been completed. We are making progress as quickly as we can, consistent with taking into account the fact that this is a part of the country of natural beauty and that a considerable number of views have to be considered.

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