§ 6.7 p.m.
§ LORD HENLEY rose to call attention to the Minister's decision on the reconstruction of the A.66 road in the Lakeland National Park and the urgent need for the formulation of a road policy for that Park; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am calling attention to the Minister's decision on the A.66 because I think it has implications which are wider than might be generally supposed. The A.66 is the road which 369 goes West from Penrith. It goes through Keswick and Cockermouth and on from there to West Cumberland. It crosses the Lake District and in part cuts through the National Park. The proposal is that this road should be enlarged to near-motorway standards, to link industrial West Cumberland with the M.6. The main objections were that such an extension was inconsistent with a National Park and could be avoided by various alternatives. Those objections were considered at a public inquiry over a period of five weeks, at the end of which the inspector approved the proposal for the extension of the road. The Minister has since upheld his decision.
§ I do not want to cover the arguments that were covered then, even in outline, though I daresay that other noble Lords may wish to touch on them. I should like to look at the attitude of mind lying behind the justification for the extension of the road, because I believe the attitude to be wrong. I believe that the implications of which I speak have gone more or less unnoticed by the Government. They are implications not only for National Parks in particular but for traffic in this country in general. It seems to me that the Government have not noticed how much ideas on traffic problems have changed over the last year or two. The logic of their decision is based on ideas which I believe to be passing. It is the mixture as before—I call it the "Let's face it, the motor car is here to stay proposition—and it is an example of letting traffic use us rather than the other way round.
§ When the inspector made his report, he said that his criterion of acceptance would be the compatibility of proposals with the purposes of a National Park. But from there we go straight into an equivocation. That equivocation was the suggestion that the statutory purposes of National Parks have not yet been defined. So public access by road must be the prerequisite of public enjoyment. I am not at all sure that it is true that the statutory purposes of National Parks have not been defined—in fact in the original Act outdoor recreation was one of the purposes of the National Parks. In any case, is it necessary to make a definition, and does lack of definition lead to a conclusion that public access by road 370 must be a pre-requisite of public enjoyment? The report suggests that access itself is not defined. I do not know about that; but in the original Act the idea that the car was going to be part of the enjoyment of National Parks was very far from the views of those who framed the idea of National Parks; the idea was in their minds that the motor car would be restricted where it conflicted with other forms of access.
§ The next equivocation was that natural beauty was nowhere defined. I am not sure that that is not the worst equivocation of them all. Natural beauty in this context does not need definition; it is self-evident. Then there is the suggestion (which crops up so often) that much of the so-called natural beauty of this country is man made. I daresay it is, but this again is the kind of argument produced again and again as an excuse by the developer.
§ The last equivocation was the suggestion that the Countryside Commission had given no guidance as to the relative importance of conservation, access and public enjoyment. I agree. I am sorry that the Countryside Commission did not come out rather more strongly in the evidence it gave: and I beg the Countryside Commission not to be complaisent about National Parks, and I hope it will not be complaisent about its own future as well. Nevertheless, I am sorry that the inspector should have thought it necessary to hide behind that particular skirt; I do not think that that is sufficient justification for the assumption that he makes, that access by road is one of the principle purposes of the Park. That was a rather philistine attitude of mind, rather the attitude of mind—and this is rather expressed in terms in the report—that views for motorists are one of the most important things in a National Park. I should have thought that that was one of the least important. The inspector went on to admit that the proposals would damage the Park landscape, and it would mean less enjoyment for those who see and hear the road traffic from the Fells. He goes on to say that peace and solitude are vanishing anyway. I should have thought it was just that vanishing of peace and solitude that we were trying to avoid.371
§ So much for an attitude of mind which I feel is rather feeble. There are other assumptions which are not just a feeble attitude; they are clearly wrong. First of all, the inspector rejects the effect of the proposed expansion on the planning of the Lake District as a whole. He said that that was outside his terms of reference, and it was not something he could consider; he could consider only the road itself. I cannot help feeling that this is a nonsense; that a high speed road going through the Park will have great effect on the whole of the National Park, and this should be considered as a whole. It is not only that part which the road goes through, which is what the inspector confined himself to considering; the local problems are not going to be solved by merely making a high-speed road through it. I think that there is a great deal to be considered about the feeder roads which have not been properly considered. There will be pressure on the Government to increase the number of those roads. They will find it extremely difficult to resist that.
§ There is, lastly, the whole question (which I do not think has been properly considered) of the Kendal-Keswick road running from North to South. I hope that we shall hear something about that. The inspector rejected any suggestions for the restriction of lorries. The whole public attitude is changing; there is a feeling now that heavy traffic must be prevented from using certain routes. I think I am right in saying that the inspector rejected the consideration of suggestions for public transport in the Park.
§ All these rejections seem to add up to an urgent need—and this is part of what I am drawing the Government's attention to—for the formulation of a road policy in the Park. The inspector regards conservation as being less important than short-term convenience. That is a very sad conclusion. This is not a local issue; it is an important national issue. I entirely accept that people who live in an area should have high priority of consideration as to what is done. The argument is sometimes put forward that people who live in towns in the South think that they own the Lake District and can do what they like with it. This is far from the truth. The Friends of the Lake District are, in very large part, 372 people who live there, work there and have their being there. In any case, some of the local inhabitants and local authorities have to some extent been "conned" into thinking that the enlargement of this road is going to help their own traffic problems. I do not think that is so. Their traffic problems would be nothing if it were not for the other traffic coming into the area. The local people have possibly misconceived what their own interests are. I am not sure that the same is not true of West Cumberland; I am not sure that the West Cumberland route needs to go along this road at all.
§ There is one other point which is important, one which I know the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale (who would have spoken in this debate if he had not had to be in Northern Ireland today), would have made. Local people have accepted the need for planning restrictions which they have often found frustrating and expensive. They have accepted them, although they have been generous, because they have felt that it was in the public interest that they should do so. Now they see the Government coming along with a proposition which they feel is out of all proportion to any damage which they might have been doing by wrong planning. The suggestion is: "Why should we have these onerous restrictions placed upon us if the Government are merely going to override the whole thing?" There will be pressure on the Government to lift some of those planning restrictions, and the Government will find it very hard to resist. This would be a great pity.
§ What next? What is important is the implication that this decision has, not just for the Lake District National Park, but for all National Parks. What is going to happen on the route from Sheffield to Manchester? What is going to happen in all the National Parks? This is something to which I am not at all sure the Government have given proper consideration. It seems to me that in this particular case, and indeed in other suggestions that I suspect have been coming along, a quite improper use is being made of National Parks roads. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.20 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure we are all very much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for initiat- 373 ing this debate and I am glad to be able to take part in it because for years we have all been too slow in formulating a road policy for National Parks. On this particular issue my line is somewhat different from that of many other critics, perhaps because I know the area so well and it is for me an extremely sad occasion. I have a personal interest in both the line that the Government have chosen and what is called the "alternative line". I declared it in detail when we debated this same subject only two years ago and I will not take up time doing it again tonight unless any noble Lord wishes me to spell it out.
As I see it, the root of the problem of main roads in the Lake District and also roads serving industrial West Cumberland —and one cannot separate the two—is that there is no good coast road, and because three counties have been concerned in the past with improving the coast road, nothing has ever been done because it has never been the responsibility of one particular authority.
There is of course an urgent need to improve the communications with West Cumberland and also with Barrow. Do not let us forget Barrow; it does not happen to be in Cumberland but it is just as important and half the population along the coast lives in the neighbourhood of Barrow. I am very concerned with this whole problem. With regard to the actual decision of the Government, to prefer the A.66 to the so-called alternative Sebergham route, I am one of those who think that that line is the correct line. But having said that I object most strongly to the scale of works that are proposed along that line and to the way it is proposed to handle some of the most precious land in this country, in particular Bassenthwaite lake side and the neighbourhood of Keswick, where their proposals would be disastrous.
I have been misrepresented locally, as your Lordships can well imagine, because I have not echoed all the cries about "the road, the road and nothing but the road" which certain councillors in West Cumberland have been chanting for some time. But I think it is the job of all of us, now that the main decision has been made—the Ministry first giving us a lead and then the County Council, individuals, amenity societies and other organisations as far as lies in their power 374 —to see that this work is done with the minimum damage to amenity and in particular the minimum—I will not just say "damage"; I will say "destruction" of Bassenthwaite lake edge. Here let me say how sad it is that the Cumberland County Council are so insensitive to the needs of the National Park and so ready to sneer at the views of the Lake District Planning Board.
It has been said before, and I have little doubt that when my noble friend replies he will say it again, that it is not the intention of the Government to build a motorway right through the National Park: that all they want to build is an innocent 24-foot single carriageway with verges, and that they are only going to dual it for six miles out of something like 30. I have heard that said so often. But the six miles happen to be along one of the most beautiful unspoilt water edges in this country and where, after they have done their worst, instead of trees, natural scrub and occasional view points looking across to Skiddaw—and that is the view that Tennyson looked at when he wrote much of his best verse—we are going to see something like a seafront with a masonry retaining wall at times rising actually out of the water. I do not know how the Government square this with the Council of Europe's Declaration of Management of the National Environment whereby, among other things, Governments are urged (and I think our Government have accepted this) to safeguard immediately unspoilt lake shore and coast line and to ensure free access to them. It seems a very strange way of implementing that declaration.
But whereas there are certain parts of this road which urgently need improvement, I still think it is not too late for a rethink in regard to the section running along Bassenthwaite edge. From the very start the Department of the Environment has shown in its Press handouts that its mind is set on a scenic route, such as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has already mentioned. The great thing is that the motorists shall see everything as they drive along and that the 60 mile-an-hour alignment is something sacred—nothing less will be considered. This may he all right in many places in Britain, and more so in the United States of America; but I would submit that one of the few unspoilt parts of the English Lake District 375 is one of the last places where you want to build a scenic route on that scale. The Lake District is too small and too precious for such intrusion. Once we have it we can never put the original back.
Going a little further East, we come to Keswick, where everybody will agree that a by-pass is necessary; but again, the whole of the decision seems to have been spoilt by the scale and the size of the proposed viaduct. Perhaps in his reply the noble Lord can tell us how high the viaduct is to be, and then we can picture for ourselves what it will look like against a backcloth of Skiddaw. The scale seems to be based on the assumption that the population of West Cumberland is likely to rise steeply. In fact few will accept that, yet that does not mean that I am undervaluing the need for better communications for West Cumberland. We all accept that there is such a need and it is interesting that at the inquiry one West Cumberland industrialist gave evidence to the effect that he played down the idea that there was a single extra job in building this road on the scale proposed as against doing the work a deal less grandiose. I fear many people have been misled by propaganda, a great deal of its emanating from the county councillors.
I should now like to return to the lake side. That is the part of the road which I know best, much of which has been in my family for a very long time. I am very proud that it is so different from many of the built-up areas of coastline and other lake shores covered with sporadic and speculative buildings, much of it dating from Victorian and post-first war limes. Some would say that is shabby. That is its charm. It happens to be several miles of uninhabitated lake shore free largely from hamlets, villages and modern buildings.
I would submit that it is perfectly possible to widen the existing carriageway, although I admit, having taken engineering advice on this, that in places it is rather more difficult than building a dual carriageway and hence of course much less attractive to the engineers, who always prefer the simpler and more straightforward job and possibly minimising the danger of complications in maintenance from soft rock such as could 376 arise from cutting back the banks. It ought not to be so difficult since the public inquiry have visited Yugoslavia and seen the amount of tunnelling that they have done in many places there. Tunnelling in two or three places along this lakeside would be a solution greatly preferable to a dual carriageway along the whole lake.
Now I would say, in passing, that if other courses are rejected, it is also possible to put a bridge across the narrow end of the lake up at the North West corner. By so doing, although you would lose something up there (and everybody admits that) you would leave the major part of the lake, running all the way down towards Keswick, undisturbed. That was the idea of my advisers and what they proposed to me as the best solution. I will say no more, but when the havoc along the lakeside becomes more apparent then I think people will begin to regret that the idea of the bridge was not investigated more closely, because something of that sort is commonplace in Switzerland and in Italy, and it can be infinitely preferable to a masonry wall rising for a considerable length out of the water.
I also find it a matter of regret that the Secretary of State has rejected all the inspector's recommendations except one —for the minor changes and improvements along the line of the lakeside. One would have expected that after he had got the main part of his case accepted by the inspector he would have leaned over backwards to try to meet the objectors on as many small points as he could, particularly those affecting amenity. But no! This again strengthens my feeling that the Ministry—there has been a change of Ministers during this period, so I will have to say "the Ministry"—made un their minds from the very start what they wanted, and in consequence rendered the inquiry an expensive five weeks' formality.
There is also an unsolved mystery in all of this and I would ask the Minister when he replies if he will clear the matter up. What was the understanding between the previous Government and the noble Lord, Lord Stokes—I am sorry that he is not in his place this evening—before his firm would build a factory in West Cumberland? Everybody knows that the road needed improvements, and every- 377 body knows that some assurances were given about road improvements. But what were those assurances? There must have been some correspondence, but no paragraph of that correspondence has ever been made public, nor has any Minister spelt the matter out in terms to show that he was completely independent. I fear that the late Government have created a difficulty for themselves and for their successors in this matter, but I think that we deserve to have it spelt out. As nothing clear has been said about this point and no correspondence published, I think we are entitled to continue to have our misgivings. I am convinced that these arrangements—and they may have been very good arrangements from his point of view—were not without some influence on the final decisions.
I turn now to procedure, because this long-drawn-out business has revealed a great many shortcomings in the matter of procedure. If I appear personal in what I say. I would at least claim that I am speaking at first hand. We are told that these inquiries are open to all, and of course inspectors listen to the humble as readily as they do to leading counsel acting for great corporations. But if evidence in an inquiry of this length is to be relevant and constructive, it is no good an individual turning up one day in the middle of the fourth week, saying his short piece, and going away. If he wants his evidence to be relevant and constructive, either he or his representative must attend for a large part of the time. In my case—and as I say I have certain interests on both roads—I concluded that the costs of learned counsel —begging the pardon of my noble friends here—would not be justified, and that what I needed first and foremost was the services of a good engineer. For the rest, we planned our case as cheaply as we could, and it cost us about £1,000. My engineer, Robert Fane, produced the only original ideas put forward throughout the whole five weeks of the inquiry. There was no penny received towards the cost involved. I am not squealing; I am saying this only so that others may take this as a warning. I would add that we are hoodwinking ourselves to pretend that in such inquiries we have found a happy solution to many problems, and least of all, the problems of major road proposals in a National Park. 378 Also on procedure, it is extremely unhappy for county councils to be asked to act as agents for the Department of the Environment—or what was the old Ministry of Transport—on work of this sort. Admittedly, it buttresses the egos of some people such as the chairman of the highways committee and some of his staff but it throws up also just as many problems as it solves, I hope that it will never again happen in the Lake District, because among other consequences, it is a way of keeping everybody in the dark for a very long time. The county councillors are rendered virtually powerless since their servants are working in the main for central Government and therefore take their orders in part from them and also are no longer in the same way wholly the servants of their own council.
Still further on procedure: under the present conventions it appears possible to delay the issue of plans to those concerned until a very late date. That is grossly unfair to all those who are vitally interested, and it puts them under additional difficulties. Here I should like to pay tribute to Cumberland County Council who disobeyed all the ruleA. They at least realised that the rules were, intolerable and helped people like me. No doubt they got rapped by the central Government, but I should like to pay a tribute to the fact that they appreciated this and did their best. Needless to say one was never allowed a plan but I was allowed to have a glimpse now and then. On the papers served, there have been references to numbers on the Ordnance Survey and so many square yards or thereabouts. Even after the inquiry, when the actual compulsory purchase orders were being served—and they are dated December 18, 1972—no plans as yet showing exactly what land is required have been circulated. That to me is very difficult to understand. We asked at the end of January if we could have plans, but we have not as yet had any and I still have no idea how much, if any, of that lake shore it is intended to leave with me. I have no idea at all. This all seems to me much more like the procedures in one of the Communist countries of Eastern Europe than what we are accustomed to in this country.
379 I have spoken long enough. The Lake District—and I shall quote this again—has been said by a great man to be so small, so beautiful and so vulnerable, and now we see a Government which have just inflicted a deep wound on it. Some of us will remember a magnificent debate 18 months ago when the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made a remarkable speech in which he said:Our concern …is …with the whole quality of life, and if that phrase lifts our thoughts to the highest arts of civilisation it also takes them to the underlying gifts of nature, to fresh air, clean water, fields and forests, the birds, beasts and fish that belong in them, to golden sands and blue seas, in fact to the whole choir of the Benedicite, and also to the peace and quiet without which that chorus can neither be joined nor enjoyed. It is these natural gifts, these boons, that we can no longer take for granted. They need to be protected, to be conserved, to be cared for, to be fought for, in a war against the din and clatter, the muck and grime, the soot and slime which is fashionably labelled pollution'."—[0Fricim, REPORT, 9/12/70, col. 969.]That is a magnificent paragraph. Since then the noble Lord has been visiting National Parks and he had created such a good impression. Yet after the Government's decision, and when one looks at the details, I am left wondering what to believe and what will come next. But one thing I know, I could have wished the reputation of Conservative Governments in the past to have been higher in this field of caring for the beautiful things in this country. Now I know that it bears a deep stain.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, I propose to look at this case in the light of my 12 years' experience as Chairman of the National Parks Commission. We shall find, I suggest, how inadequate are the two Acts of 1949 and 1968 as instruments for the protection of the landscape. Those two Acts are the National Parks Act of 1949 and the Countryside Act of 1968. Before the 1949 Act was passed expectation ran high. The late Lord Birkett said confidently:When National Parks are established the fairest places in these islands will be secure from all assault.After the Act was passed, the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Mr. Harold Macmillan, committed himself in 1952 to the statement that in 380 National Parks amenity considerations have priority over industrial and material needs. That was not a quotation from the Act; it was an interpretation of the Act, and a very optimistic interpretation at that.
Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, was nearer the mark when he said in 1959 that the scales were heavily tipped in favour of beauty and remoteness but sometimes there might be exceptional weight on the other side. Already, we see, the problem was a problem of interpretation. And of course things have not turned out as Mr. Macmillan said he thought they should. In an address to the Ramblers' Association in 1962 I said that the main threat to National Parks came from the Government itself and from the great statutory and private developers. I added that where a Government Department had had plans for erecting large installation in a National Park I could remember no case where it had been diverted from its purpose by anything that the Commission might say about the intentions of Parliament as embodied in the Act.
Again in 1966, when I ceased to be Chairman of the National Parks Commission, looking back, I confessed sadly that on the whole we had for 12 years fought a losing battle in defence of the landscape. We had not lost every engagement. We had had some successes, some of them considerable; but in matters of landscape what is lost is lost, irrevocably lost, and is not to be compensated for by other things which may be for the time being saved. In that battle the Act of 1949 was too vague in its terms to be of more than limited assistance. And the Act of 1968 is no better. The pity is that there is nothing in either of those two Acts so clear and so definite as Mr. Macmillan's statement which I have quoted.
In public inquiries before an inspector appointed by the Minister, and in proceedings of Select Committees of Parliament, the vagueness of the terms of the two Acts is of advantage to the promoters of developments and of disadvantage to the objectors. The interests of development are concrete and quantifiable. The plea of the defender of the landscape is subjective and not measurable. He is driven to appeal to the spirit rather than to the letter of the Acts and to put for- 381 ward his own interpretation of their terms. It is easy, therefore, for opposing counsel to attack the very basis of his argument. The prime example of this was the Cow Green case, where a brilliant counsel by powerful cross-examination destroyed the evidence of the botanists. In proceedings before inspectors or before Select Committees it is hard to guess how the decision will go. It is rather a tossup. What seemed a strong case may fail; what seemed a weaker case may succeed. Much will depend on the composition of the particular Select Committee. Much will depend upon the outlook of the particular inspector. Much will depend also on the view which is taken of the meaning of the two Acts which govern the issue. They are open to a variety of interpretations.
We used to think that we should have a better chance if the Minister would appoint an independent inspector at a public inquiry rather than one of his own staff. Well, in the present case we have had an independent inspector. No one could be more independent than my old friend and colleague, Rob Scott. He is a man of keenly questioning mind and of the clearest integrity. He conducted his inquiry and reported on it with exemplary care. He found for the Minister. I think the conclusion he reached was a regrettable one, but I cannot find it in myself to say that, given all the circumstances and given the unsatisfactory terms of the two Acts, it was an unreasonable one. The conflicting issues were finely balanced. When, for example, the 1968 Act says, in Section 37, that due regard is to be had to the economic and social interests of rural areas, this is all very right and proper. But it does give a point to the developer. It does give a point also to that powerful and disturbing slogan, "Bread before beauty", used, I remember well, by Welsh workers demonstrating in force in favour of a nuclear power station in the Snowdonia National Park.
In my day the Commission worked out their own interpretation of the Act when they faced the inescapable and growing threat of large-scale intrusion into National Parks in the interests of industry, communications and defence. We thought it right to give priority to preservation. We accordingly urged that there should be the strongest presumption against large- 382 scale intrusive development. Such a presumption, we thought, could be rebutted only if it could be irrefutably demonstrated that there was an overriding national necessity for it and if there was no feasible alternative. In the present case there was a feasible alternative outside the Park: not, admittedly, an easy one, but an alternative, and one which could well have been adopted for the sake of the National Park. Instead of which, for the sake of West Cumberland, there is to be a disfiguring gash across a choice area of landscape, another nail in the coffin of a National Park, bread before beauty.
These are sad days for National Parks. The Act of 1968, as I feared at Second Reading, does not seem to have done them any good; and with every technological advance the prospect gets worse. There are some further similar road problems looming up in National Parks, and in their latest report the Countryside Commission are not very cheerful about them. I now ask again, as I have asked before, when shall we have a Government which will firmly say, "Thus far, and no further"?
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like, in the first place, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for giving us the opportunity of debating this matter. I would underline, although it really does not form part of the speech I wish to make to your Lordships, the fact that the Secretary of State's decision runs flatly contrary to the case of the Countryside Commission and also the Lake District Planning Board. It is all part of the same trouble which the noble Lord, Lord Strang, has told us about so clearly in what I found a very doleful speech. I worked on the Hobhouse Committee and have been in the National Parks movement ever since it started, and I should like, on behalf not only of your Lordships but of the whole community, to thank Lord Strang for the outstanding work he did as Chairman of the National Parks Commission over all those years. England is becoming a defaced place over many of its most beautiful areas, but certainly he did his best for all that time, and a successful best in many ways, to protect those splendid areas, the National Parks, and particularly perhaps the Lake Dis- 383 trict, which owes him a deep debt of gratitude.
The orders which we are considering to-night in this debate are a disaster to everybody who is a true lover of the Lake District National Park, and indeed of the Lake District as a whole. They are going to lead—and it does not seem possible to stop this without an Act of Parliament, which obviously will not be passed—to the build-up of a sort of highspeed motor track along which juggernauts, as I personally always like to describe these terrific industrial vehicles, will sweep with all their noise, rumbling, smell, destroying the peace which Wordsworth found among the silent hills. And it was in those parts—there is no reference to it at all in the inspector's report —that Wordsworth and Coleridge rambled across the fells. Many of the most inspiring passages in Wordsworth's great poetry—which I should say is of greater value than all the industry in West Cumberland—were thought of, and some of it written down, there.
The object is to turn this into a sort of industrial environmental road in order that these great juggernauts may come and go into West Cumberland. What the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said is very true. It has never been denied that there was a sort of compact between the noble Lord, Lord Stokes, and the Government that they should have this road. At that time, of course, we did not know how excellent an alternative route there is, which the inspector in his report agrees is completely viable. After that one finds it almost inconceivable that the Secretary of State for the Environment can reject this alternative route.
I should like to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said about the inspector, who obviously was doing his best, like the pianist we were asked not to shoot at. He was a most considerate inspector. He sat through all this difficult period when the electricity strike was at its worse. His report is in many ways a model. The only pity of it is that it came to such wrong conclusions. This is understandable, because he was, as it were, pulled out of his retirement from a busy life in Whitehall in Government employ. He was not really equipped to pass upon a problem of this kind. In a way, it is surprising that he did as well 384 as he did, although all through the report there are places where quite obviously he was not at all sure of himself—and indeed he says so from time to time as the report goes along. If I had unlimited time I could pick out a number of passages in the report. In one place he said:I was very much of the mind to suggest that the Keswick by-pass should be suspended while a real study was made of the problem of traffic in Keswick.This is the kernel of the whole of this business. This is just one example, of a substantial number. Another very important example has been referred to by the noble Lord. Lord Henley—who did not altogether forgive the inspector for this, but it was not easy for him, pitched into this job, with a Department which quite obviously had not thought these things out. He says in one of the paragraphs (I think paragraph 99) that the Department admitted that they had no regional policy in respect of roads. How could the man come to a sensible opinion on which to advise the Secretary of State in these circumstances?
There are many ironies in this report. One of the greatest of all is that all this, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has suggested, really came into being for the purpose of helping the employment situation in West Cumberland. The protagonists were all there; the councils, the county council itself, and many industrial people living in those parts. The irony is that Sir Robert Scott finds that the chance of building up West Cumberland into a large industrial centre is so small that it would not be justifiable to spend the comparatively small sum of money in making the alternative route a fit route to take heavy industrial traffic. His proposals are put forward on the basis of the vastly increasing tourist traffic, so he is going to mix them up. Nothing can be more horrible than mixing up the great tourist traffic of the Lake District and these heavy long vehicles, these heavy juggernauts. As I was on my way to Penrith to give evidence at this inquiry, I decided to refresh my mind on the site at Bassenthwaite Lake, to which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred. We got out of the car and walked to the water's edge, and we were not there for more than two or three minutes, but during that time about a dozen enormous great 385 juggernauts passed behind us on the road which, at that point, is built up at the back with some kind of volcanic rock which reverberates. Really the noise given out by these vehicles as they went past, one after the other, across the waters of this beautiful, silent lake was terrible. I only hoped that the inspector himself would have a similar experience when he got there, but he evidently did not.
One of the weaknesses in his report is that he does not at any point seem to appreciate what these juggernauts involve in a countryside like the Lake District. They are passed off as the equivalent of "1.75 passenger car units". That is ludicrous. All your Lordships will have met with these long vehicles when driving your cars about the roads. In these Lake District roads they are quite terrible. To say that one of these things passing along beside Bassenthwaite is the equivalent of 1.75 passenger car units is quite absurd.
I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, put the debate on to a general footing and did not concentrate entirely on the A.66 itself. There are a few matters, some of them of rather a general character, to which I should like to refer. The first of these—and this is basic to all these inquiries—is that the inspector's report, which is a long, well-written and interesting document, was published at the same time as the orders were made by the Secretary of State. Just think what that means. Nobody outside the Department had had any chance of studying this. Informed opinion was not allowed to get to work until it was too late for it to have any effect on the Minister. Is not this altogether wrong? They had it six months, during which time we, who were interested in this, could have been thinking about it, making suggestions about where it could be improved, about weaknesses in the argument and that sort of thing. But we had no chance at all. Informed opinion, which is essential to modern, well-functioning democracy, was just ignored. The Secretary of State himself works entirely on departmental advice and on the opinion of the inspector and, so far as I know, he never looked at the place himself.
I should like to contrast that with the action of Mr. Marsh, who was Minister of Transport in the Wilson Administra- 386 tion when a much less serious matter arose in South Westmorland at Levens. A road had been projected by the road engineers, and road engineers are not at all interested in natural scenery. It appears in the report itself that the principal road engineer who gave evidence said, "There is no difference between building a road in a National Park and building one anywhere else. It is a road engineering problem." But Mr. Marsh went there and saw the superb old avenue of forest trees which had been growing at Levens Hall ever since the time of Charles II who had Beaumont, the famous gardener of Louis XIV, to advise him on his gardens. When Mr. Marsh saw that with his own eyes, he immediately overrode his inspector. He said, "It would be a crying shame to destroy this lovely avenue of trees", so the road was moved. But the present Secretary of State did not do that. He did not go there to have a look for himself. Mr. Marsh went there long before what one might call the Peter Walker era of the bright new world, which for a time took us all in, though if Mr. Walker had still been at the Ministry this decision might well have gone the other way.
Not only does the Secretary of State not take a personal interest in this matter; we in Parliament are not allowed to take a personal interest in it either. We cannot do so, because these orders do not have to be laid and I suggest that that, again, is a serious weakness in the present situation. I raised this point in the debate which we had a week or two ago on the Brooke Report on Delegated Legislation, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in answering the debate, said that he thought there was a case which certainly deserved consideration as to whether orders made in respect of roads of this importance ought to be laid so that Parliament could exercise some control over them. I suggest that, at any rate in National Parks, roads of this importance certainly ought to be under Parliamentary control and I hope that before long it may be possible to get this point into a Bill. I should like the Minister to give serious consideration to this suggestion.
As I said, informed opinion is not given the opportunity of bringing its weight to bear on the inspector's report, 387 nor is Parliament able to exercise any control over what is done. Contrast that, my Lords, with the position of the National Trust, on the Committee of which I served for very many years. If the National Trust has declared a property inalienable, it is entitled to have a Parliamentary Committee sit on any proposal by a Government Department, or by anybody else, to interfere with that piece of land. If the Department proposed a road scheme of this kind across a National Trust property, the National Parks Committee would undoubtedly insist on the matter being brought before a Select Committee of Parliament, which it has in fact done on more than one occasion in the past. These National Trust properties are important, but hardly stand up in importance to this 12 miles' stretch of the A.66 through the very heart of the most beautiful part of the Lake District. So I suggest that it is high time that Parliament exerted itself and took charge of this sort of situation.
It is getting late, and there are many other points which I should have liked to make about this subject. In particular, I should have liked to criticise in detail where I think the inspector went wrong, although this has been done to quite an extent by earlier speakers. I think he was much too insensitive to natural beauty and, indeed, in one of his paragraphs he stated that he thought the objectors over-emphasised the importance of the scenery and the natural beauty. It is almost impossible to believe one's eyes when one reads a sentence like that. How can the convenience of traffic be allowed to take precedence over the beautiful natural scenery of the English Lake District, which is famous throughout the world and is known even by people who have never set foot in this country, but have read the poems of Wordsworth—one of our greatest national heritages? So I think that the inspector went badly wrong there.
Throughout this report one has the feeling that he was not quite sure of himself, and I do not think he was really quite sure of himself when he penned those lines. I have already mentioned the fact that he did not consider sufficiently carefully the destructive effects of heavy commercial 388 traffic, of long vehicles, in a small beautiful area like the English Lake District, whose roads have to be magnified into something in the nature of motorways before they can properly use them. That is the sort of way in which he went wrong.
If one had time, one could point to passage after passage in the report in which mistakes like that are made. This all emphasises the importance of really thorough discussion with informed people. Before this order was made, I should have liked Professor Buchanan to examine this report in detail. I am quite sure that he would have been able to show where it went wrong very much more skilfully and persuasively than the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and myself and other speakers in this debate. We must use this report in order to get the present position put right. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, has pointed out how very difficult this will be, because we shall require a new Act of Parliament. For goodness sake! my Lords, let us get down to it and draft an Act of Parliament which will prevent this sort of thing from happening in future.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I should perhaps begin by describing my personal interest in this matter. I was Chairman of the Standing Committee on National Parks from 1963 to 1968, and Chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England from 1968 to 1971, and I am now President of that body. I do not intend to go into details about this decision, which I regard as a lamentable and a regrettable decision. This is a battle which has been lost. But I am very much concerned about some of the principles which appear to have been laid down by the inspector and which it appears to me the Secretary of State accepted in his letter of decision. What is needed is a far clearer appreciation of the constitutional position of the National Parks and of the way in which they should be treated by Government Departments.
I am fearful that this decision will be treated as a precedent for industrial roads being driven through other National Parks. There is, indeed, a proposal for a great industrial thoroughfare going through the High Peak from Sheffield to 389 Manchester. I am not wholly comforted by the statement in the letter of decision that:The Secretary of State wishes however to make it clear that because of the particular problem of road communications with West Cumberland his decision in this case has no implications for policy on road standards in National Parks generally.That is all right so far as it goes, but in paragraph 6 of the same letter we read:The inspector accepts that an improved Sebergham route would be a valid alternative to the A.66 as a trunk road link between West Cumberland and the M.6 which industrial through traffic for West Cumberland could use".This appears to be a serious error in the ratiocination of this letter of decision. It is disquieting that the inspector does not appear to have understood the clear implication of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The purpose of National Parks was clearly stated to be: first, preserving their natural beatuy; and, secondly, promoting their enjoyment by the public. We all recognise that the development of motor traffic since 1949 has made it more difficult than Parliament realised at that time to preserve the National Parks in all their beauty and, at the same time, to facilitate their enjoyment by the public. But those still remain, in that order, the undoubted purposes of National Parks.
Nor, strangely enough, has the inspector understood what is meant by "access" in the Statute of 1949. It clearly is not intended to be access to National Parks by motor cars. If the noble Lords will turn to Part IV of the Act, they will see that it refers to access to open country, and there are a great many sections of the Act which deal with covenants for ramblers and people on foot or on horseback to obtain access to open country. It was not intended that access should mean increasing facilities for motorists to drive into the middle of National Parks. On the contrary, Section 93 gives power, for the first time, for the restriction of traffic on roads in order to ensure that the purposes for which the National Parks were designated can be achieved. Again, it is surprising that the inspector says that he does not recommend that any restrictions should be imposed upon big industrial vehicles using the A.66, and he says that restrictions would be difficult to 390 enforce. Almost all traffic regulations are to some extent difficult to enforce, but that is not any reason for not having them. Indeed, the whole trend of public opinion and of Government policy is to impose more and more restrictions upon traffic in the general interests of the community at large. What is being done in towns can equally well be done in National Parks. We already have Oxford Street closed to private cars for part of its distance; and in the case of almost every new town which has been built during the last few years there are pedestrian precincts in which traffic is not allowed to go.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strang, with his long experience during his distinguished time as Chairman of the National Parks Commission, has referred to the way in which Ministers of Health or Ministers of Town and Country Planning of both the main political Parties in this country, have interpreted what was intended to be done and have given assurances that that was the policy of their Government. There is nothing I would add to what Lord Strang has said, but one of the most serious things at the moment is the danger of roads being widened and improved inside National Parks in such a way as to destroy the amenity of the Parks. In addition, there are these great highways which are being built in order to enable industrial traffic to pass through them and large numbers of char-a-banes and so on to approach them.
I am going to ask your Lordships' indulgence to quote at some length from a Report which was presented to the second "The Countryside in 1970" Conference, because I think it sets out extraordinarily clearly what ought to be done about the road policy of the country, and I should like to have it on record in Hansard so that one can ask the Government whether they are prepared to accept in general outline that this will be their policy. This was the report of Study Group No. 7. It says in paragraph 22:The problems of motorised access to the countryside, and the passage of traffic through the countryside, clearly require consideration on a national and regional scale, and as an integral part of the general process of town and country planning.I interrupt my quotation at this point to say that I cannot understand why the 391 inspector said in his report that his decision about this road had no bearing upon the general planning of the National Park.
I leave out a few sentences of this report and go on:From this would emerge a plan for a countryside highway system with national, regional and local networks.I leave out a few more words and go on:The basis of the road plan should be a skeletal network of main roads based on the present primary routes, that is, motorways, trunk roads and some Class I roads, on to which through traffic is directed …While these main through roads should be planned and landscaped to cause the least possible damage and dislocation to the countryside and while they should, if at all possible, be routed round rather than through National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the smooth and rapid flow of traffic on these roads must have priority over other considerations".In the next paragraph it says:Within the skeletal networks"—and obviously that means inside National Parks and places of that kind—particularly in the vital environmental areas within the meshes of the 'grid'—the preservation of the environment and the retention of countryside values must in general take precedence over the smooth and rapid flow of traffic. In all such environmental areas … we should ensure that the motor car does not dominate or defile the scene".I think that was an extraordinarily well thought out and clearly stated objective and I do so much hope that the Government will be willing to accept it as a general principle. Certainly so far as the National Parks are concerned I think it is absolutely vital that this unfortunate precedent in the case of the Lake District should not be followed in other cases.
My Lords, I had hoped that the creation of the Department of the Environment would make sure that roads and transport would be treated in future as what they are—a means to an end, a service for the community—and that the broad considerations of the environment would be given precedence over merely engineering or material considerations.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, I have been visiting the Lake District as a climber and a walker for the past 40 years, but it is not on grounds of personal memories or sentiments with regard to the past that I enter the lists on the side of the conservationists but in the sense so movingly 392 expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in the speech referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, earlier this evening. I feel that I must enter these lists to express my horror and astonishment over the Minister's decision to approve these plans for the A.66. Here is the naked contradiction between conservation on the one hand and ease of access, unrestricted access by mechanical means, to or through an area of unique natural beauty on the other. My Lords, the point has already been made, but let me repeat it. The argument for industrial access from the M.6 by the A.66 to the industrial area of West Cumberland simply does not stand up. There is an alternative, and this point was conceded by the inspector in his report. Yet by building this great throughway which bisects the Lake District in its Northern part the industrial traffic which will use it and will benefit and profit by it will be most detrimental to the scenery and the amenities in the National Park itself.
I personally also do not underrate the harm that tourism attracted in this particular way will inflict. If you broaden the access route so as to make it all that easier for more and more people to come into the National Parks, particularly one as small as our English Lake District, not only to aid but positively to abet the scenic viewer, we shall see the roadsides and the lakesides littered with tin cans, paper and plastic bags. Noise, fumes and a visible volume of fast moving, heavy traffic beneath Saddleback and along the shores of quiet and remote Bassenthwaite lake will ruin the sense of peace and remoteness which are the precious heritage of our Northern lakeland, hills and dales. What is more, these human and mechanical intrusions will, I foresee as an ardent amateur ornithologist, drive away a lot of bird life which shares and is part of this heritage. The Government's disregard for the aesthetic aspects of this matter is quite amazing.
But, my Lords, there is another conflict of interest which particularly concerns me, and that is the conflict between the amenity of a mountain area as a means of recreation and adventurous activities, particularly perhaps in the interests of young people on the one hand, and those who, fairly enough, simply want to sit in their vehicles or 393 at the roadside, by the lakeside and look. We must keep enough outlets for adventure and personal exploration and the development of the skills and the degree of fitness required to undertake them safely and properly. There are few enough of these already. For heaven's sake do not make them fewer still!
I should like to stress again how small is this area of mountains and lakes in the North-West corner of England. If you expose one part of its small total area to the roar of traffic and the hordes of tourists' where is the challenge to our young adventurers in the hills or on the water on either side of the motorway? How can they find remoteness? How can they develop their navigational skills in remote country? Who would accept any more that the testing challenge of a gold award expedition under the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme should take place in the Northern lakes once this project has gone through?
Finally, my Lords, finishing as other noble Lords have done on the general points rather than on this particular catastrophe which we have coming to us, in principle we are seeing the whittling away of these incalculably important pieces of our heritage. I should like to urge that more provision be made, by all means, for the sightseers and the country lovers in country parks adjacent to or alongside the National Parks, but preserve the National Parks for their unique qualities of remoteness and keep them unchanged. I would only wish that the Minister who presides over a Department which was set up precisely to conserve our environment and not to promote the tourist trade or to develop industrial communication would think again.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD HEWLETT
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest care to every contribution made in this debate and I have removed from my comments those which have already been amply covered, save and except for those that I should like to suggest deserve further underlining and supporting. May I say first that I find it an extremely ironic situation that we should have finished just before 6 o'clock debating the problems of noise in the environment and that the Government 394 should say as strongly as they did what marvellous steps they are taking to prevent the incursions of noise upon humanity, and now I am afraid that my noble friend Lord Mowbray is going to try to defend something which has brought noise to one of the quietest and remaining quiet corners of England. I find this a very difficult task for him to undertake, and I regret that this Government should have to defend what I think we have to admit has been a serious error of judgment. I would beg even at this very late hour, when orders have already been issued, that steps should be taken to have another look at it to see whether it is possible—as I am sure it may be—to use the alternative route to which so much reference has already been made.
Coming as I do from the North-West of England, I could claim some intimate knowledge and association with the Lake District over a period of 33 years. As noble Lords have said, it is the unique nature of the Lake District that it has remained almost entirely unindustrialised, undisturbed and unpolluted since the beginning of time. But for slate quarrying in the Langdale valleys, a small amount of lead mining centuries ago and the equivalent of an explosive plant in the First World War and I believe even in Napoleonic times, there is agriculture, largely grazing, water and tourism.
The problem of the Lake District, in my submission, is the characteristic that is its very charm, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, namely, its very smallness. England's highest park Scafell Pike is a mere 3,000 ft.; England's longest lake, Lake Windermere, can be seen from end to end from various high points in the Lake District. But all is in proportion and, alas!, the very boom in terms of transport and industry of the M.6 motorway is well nigh the doom of the Lake District itself. By reason of car congestion at principal holiday times that is becoming quite unmanageable. The routing, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, on the North-South trunk road from Keswick to Kendal of heavy lorries is quite disproportionate to what that road can accept, and where the road has been widened, going up Dunmail Raise, a great deal of the natural charm and beauty has been ruined already. I beg your Lordships to consider most carefully before 395 any further incursion whatsoever is permitted upon this gem within the British Isles. The need is to inhibit the ill effects of the motor car and the heavy lorry in such an area, and not to increase it.
One of the successes locally in the Peak District, in the Goyt Valley, not so many miles from my own home, has been the banning of private motor vehicles in a secluded valley, and the provision of restricted but adequate local transport for those who wish to enjoy a walk in the environment of that Valley. It is not a new trunk road that is required for the Lake District; it is that there should be a total by-passing of the whole area so far as trunk traffic is concerned. This is a unique opportunity which we have at this time of preserving the only Lake District we have—Scotland and Ireland and Wales, yes; but in England itself, the only Lake District. I would suggest there is still time for intervention to be made to prevent what I fear, as other noble Lords have said, to be a ghastly precedent; for if this can be done in what is the gem of the North-West of England it can be done in any other National Park that has been devised, or in any new National Park that may yet be designated.
Bassenthwaite Lake itself is the most unspoilt of nature, and it should be left that way. In the interests of traffic flow I have not the slightest doubt that some wretched planner has his eye on the middle of Hyde Park, or the Backs at Cambridge, or Christchurch Meadows at Oxford, or the Close at Salisbury or at Wells. Already the late noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, has fought in this very Chamber, and fought successfully, to prevent the wholesale wrecking of Ullswater; while more recently, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has said, there has been a battle over the Levens Bridge and the Levens Forest, and that happily was successfully concluded.
Why cannot the so-called planners—I am sorry, I consider them in altogether unmentionable terms in many instances—get the message, that we want no railway, airport, trunk road, New Town, industry, or any other development, in places of unique natural beauty? We do not need their services. They have plenty to do in Lancashire and other parts of the North-West which are the grey and 396 wretched areas of environment, where the quality of life, as I said in my earlier speech—
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? In case the wrong impression leaves this House, would he not agree that the development of the Lake District could well follow the development of Switzerland, where there is a great variety of occupations on a small scale and a very high standard of living? Is not the real trouble here that too many of those gentleman to whom my noble friend refers as "planners" are thinking in terms of creating a sort of miniature Ruhr in West Cumberland and this is just something of their dreams and could never happen, but Switzerland should be our model? In Switzerland there is no damage to amenity but a most prosperous community.
§ LORD HEWLETT
Indeed, my Lords I take the noble Viscount's point and accept it wholeheartedly. What I think is so important about the aspect of this particular scheme is the fact that, alas! the Lake District is nowhere near the size of Switzerland, nor even of one of the minor Cantons. In fact it is only a matter of less than 100 miles in one direction and scarcely more than 50 in the other. Therefore, the area should be totally by-passed in terms of heavy traffic. One of the great gifts to the Lake District is the fact that the railway never intruded; nor aircraft, either. So I would accept the noble Viscount's point.
I would say to your Lordships: Let us keep the English Lake District as indeed the finest of our National Parks and one of the greatest of our heritages. This and other places of great natural beauty should be strengthened, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, suggested, by an improvement in the legislation to protect the conditions of the National Parks and make it virtually impossible for any armageddon, be it a vehicle, a "juggernaut", or be it an armageddon of Government indeed, to interfere with its total independence and isolation from industry and politics alike. If this House says unequivocaly that it will have no more of this nonsense in respect of the National Parks, then the message may well get throug to the planners and the other authorities who may come forward with these schemes. It is indeed as 397 in the days of the Armada, in the First Elizabeth's reign, that the bright lights on Skiddaw should warn the Burghers of Carlisle: let those bright lights indeed continue to be beacons yet, and not headlights or traffic lights or—Heaven forbid! —no-parking signs, picnic areas, and other organised inhumanity.
My Lords, the Lake District's beauty is in the fact that it is precisely not organised; it is natural beauty. I would suggest that we should not need to have to put these views time after time in this House or in the other place. There are new, accepted standards of environment which should be inviolate. There should be no need to protest about the intrusion of Government or industry or any other factor. We ought to be able to set them up with such powers in the National Parks that they cannot be destroyed or interfered with in the future. I would suggest that, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, stated, the private citizen is prevented by planners and by legislation from ruining the countryside, and rightly so. The planning conditions laid down for him should be manitained and upheld by the planners and by the Ministeries themselves. They should be prepared to acknowledge and accept, just as willingly as the private citizen, the acknowledged, improved standards for the better environment.
In the interests, I submit, of a better quality of life, is it not time that Governments as well as we Members of this House set an example in these matters and did not allow the lowering of standards, either through our negligence or through our unfortunate ineffective legislation in the setting up of National Parks, and did not allow these depredations to occur, to the great and lasting damage of the community? I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, to assure this House that to start with this scheme creates no precedent; and secondly, that if it is humanly possible within our Constitution for a stay of execution to be made, it should be made, and maintained until the whole matter can be further and extensively reviewed. In listening to this debate one finds there are aspects in the handling of the whole matter which, if they are as they are reported by various noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, give one cause for very serious alarm. It sounds, as I said earlier, that there are not just motorised juggernauts, but those of Gov- 398 ernment which have been involved. I am awaiting most keenly the Minister's reply on the principles and the procedure, and even possibly upon the propriety, of what has transpired. I hope that he will be able to answer this House, and, if possible, preserve for future heritage this most beautiful part of the English Lake District.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but having listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Inglewood, and heard the concluding remarks—
My Lords, in the interests of accuracy may I say that this promotion, which is now music to the ears, in fact is not true?
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, having heard my noble friend Lord Inglewood, and also the concluding remarks of my noble friend Lord Molson, I rise to ask the Government to give an assurance, if they can, that if this scheme goes through there will be a real and determined effort to put amenity rather than engineering first in this road which it is proposed to drive, in addition to the one that is already there, along the shores of Bassenthwaite. I very much hope that everything possible will be done to preserve that lake access and the opportunity for people to picnic by the lake, and that in every way possible the scenery will be preserved. My noble friend Lord Hewlett referred to Dunmail Raise. What a tragedy there was when the road improvement took place there—if you could call it an improvement. There was no need to put great white concrete kerbs along the roadside. Why cannot these roads, which have to be improved because of the traffic, be left in as natural a state as possible? My noble friend Lord Inglewood suggested that perhaps tunnelling might be a good way to preserve the scenery. That would cost a bit more, but what does cost matter when we are discussing these things? The stretch of road is so small; in fact the Lake District is a very small place. If you are going to drive a road through at this spot do not have the wide grass verges, which are necessary on motorways, but keep the roadside as natural as possible.
If they are going through with this proposal, I urge the Government to try 399 to put engineering considerations second and amenity and the scenic preservation of the roadside first. If that can be done there will be some saving of the situation; but if it is not done it will be a shame and disgrace in the centuries to come. Surely this can be done; and not only in National Parks but also in other places where conservation and preservation are necessary and desirable. The engineering side of road improvements for the benefit of traffic must be put second and amenity considerations first. That is the narrow point I wish to make. I hope that we may have a firm assurance from the Government that the policy of putting engineering second and amenity first will be followed, and then some good may come of it.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I regret to delay the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, even for a few minutes. But I should like to add my voice to the angry protests that have been made. There have been appeals to my noble friend who is to reply for the Government to say that this decision constitutes no precedent. He can say that until he is blue in the face, but it will not prevent this from being a precedent. It will be a precedent and a ruinous one, and we all know it. My Lords, I suppose that I have been a politician in your Lordships' House and in another place for about 37 years. I have fought, so far as I could, for the amenities of town and country. It is appalling to me, as a very old man, to think that I cannot claim to have done any very great good in either place. My only claim to have done anything is that I have helped to stop some frightful follies from being committed. I had the honour of winding-up for Lord Birkett in the debate to save Ullswater. In 37 years of public life, that was the most exciting day I had. It was one of those debates in which you did not know what the result would be.
One thing that encourages me in this debate—and it is my only hope that it will have any effect—is that we have been unanimous. Everyone who has spoken, from these Benches and from the Opposition Benches (I have no doubt what line the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will take) and from the Cross-Benches; the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and the 400 noble Lord, Lord Hunt—and may I say how much I agree with him—has been of the same opinion. One of the undoubted principles of planning, which I have urged upon Government after Government in debate after debate, is that if you have a piece of country of priceless value, or a piece of noble townscape where people love to live, whatever else you do, do not destroy it. Do not even place it at risk. The only other thing I would say—I know that it has all been said before—is how very much more important and more difficult is the problem in this country than in almost any other place in the world.
Nowhere else in the world is there more beautiful scenery but nowhere in the world is that beautiful scenery quite so vulnerable. Wherever mankind commits frightful follies by bad planning, either in the country or in towns, it will no doubt do great harm, or some harm. I expect that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will know the Rocky Mountains of Canada and their great beauty. But if some foolish thing were done there by man, it would be so small in scale compared with the beauty that would surround that folly that it would do no irreparable harm. But the scenery of England is of quite a different kind. It is subtle and small and gentle and vulnerable. It would be as easy to destroy the beauty of the Downs, which I think one of the most beautiful things in all nature, by ill-considered building or development as it would be to destroy some masterpiece of painting in the National Gallery by hacking it with a knife.
My Lords, it is the same with the Lake District. The scale is small and the beauty is vulnerable. The only point at which perhaps I differ from the splendid speeches which have been delivered from both sides of the House to-night is that I find it impossible to accept this decision as final. As long as an outrage has not been committed, surely it is possible to prevent it. I have little hope that my words will reach those Members of the Government who have some power in this matter. I am, I have no doubt, much too old and negligible. But perhaps the unanimity of this House on this occasion may make some impression, even on those who seem to have no care for beauty.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I am sorry to have missed the earlier debate on noise. Having been, as deputy to my noble friend, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, the first Chairman of the Noise Council, I am glad to have been able to attend this debate on coming back from abroad, and to have heard it opened by my successor as Chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and to have heard the distinguished speech of my predecessor as Chairman of that Council, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, during the course of it. The noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, referred to the bright lights of Skiddaw waking the burghers of Carlisle, and that is a terrible thought, but I think that actually it was only a red glow on Skiddaw which awaked the burghers of Carlisle. And if in this debate we can introduce something of a red glow which might possibly look like a warning light, a stop light, to the Government, which would prevent them from permitting development of this sort, we shall not have been talking in vain.
I will not attack the inspector's report. I do not think it matters so much whether he showed confidence or lack of confidence, or good judgment or bad judgment, as the fact that the Secretary of State's decision is a disastrous one. Mr. Rippon was not bound to follow the inspector's report. Secretaries of State do not always do that. It was a decision which goes right against planning common sense. There is, indeed, little to be said for it. It was, I think I am right in saying, Mr. Rippon's first big planning decision as Secretary of State. I remember that an earlier Secretary of State in the present Government, Mr. Peter Walker, when he first took office made a big planning decision about a brewery in Lancashire at a place called Samlesbury. It completely ruined a very small and vulnerable (our favourite word) little valley—and there are not many of them around in that part of Lancashire—and there was an outcry. But I will say this for Mr. Peter Walker: that he learned quickly, and never again did he make such a bad decision in planning. Unfortunately, Mr. Rippon does not seem to have learnt from his Lake District decision. He has already placed the Tring By-Pass in a place that cuts into the escarpment of the Chilterns. He has placed the 402 motorway by Winchester through the Water Meadows, within half a mile of the cathedral, and he has committed the unbearable and ridiculous solecism of confirming Ringway 1 and knocking down 15,000 houses in Central London—a sort of touchstone to good or bad planning. That anybody should have approved such a ridiculous idea at Cabinet level almost passes belief.
To return to the Lake District road, when I used to be a junior Minister concerned with these things I never thought that I should wish to bother Parliament with planning decisions of this nature, whether a road should be expanded. I always thought it was right that they should be taken by the Minister after a public inquiry and an inspector's report. But I must say that this run of four road decisions by Mr. Rippon, one after another in a very few months, makes me begin to wonder whether Parliament was wise to delegate so much to Ministers in the past. In delegating anything, of course, you have to rely on getting a succession of reasonably sensible Ministers one after another: and I think we have had them in the matter of planning up to and including Mr. Peter Walker. It seems as if that circle has now broken, and I wonder whether the time will come when Parliament will need to think again and require that these road orders and other planning orders should come before them for confirmation.
But to come to the point, West Cumberland needs an improved road. I think it needs it not because I regard it as a reasonable hope, as was said earlier, that it might become a miniature Ruhr—I think that was Lord Inglewood's phrase. It is not going to become a miniature Ruhr, because it is in the wrong place; it could never hope to be that. But it is a very depressed industrial zone; the people are poor, and they have the right to all the help that central Government can bring to them in order to improve their standard of living up to something like that in other industrial parts of the country.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, I was not exaggerating. I was trying to make the point that there are some people of influence in the North of England who feel that the increase of population is an important thing to achieve. There are 403 others who think that it is our duty to look after the people who are there and improve their standards, and not to think of increased numbers. I feel that some of that thinking lies behind the scale of this road.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for carelessly attributing to him views that he was only reporting to the House. Among the things that a Government can do for the isolated and impoverished community is to improve communications, and the proposed road does precisely that. So I think that all of us on this side of the House would be far from saying that there should be no better road, not even a motorway in time to come, to West Cumberland—and of course the decision where to put it was quite a difficult one. But the point is this. Supposing this road succeeds in its purpose and West Cumberland does become a prosperous industrial zone; and supposing that people do become more wealthy. At the moment it is going through a National Park, and it is a great scandal; there will be a viaduct here and a dual section there, and a bit of brute vertical wall arising out of the water of Bassenthwaite. That may be defensible, although I do not think it is. But supposing it succeeeds in its purpose, and there is great wealth there, then there is going to be overwhelming pressure on the Government of the day to turn it into a full-scale motorway; and to turn that road into a full scale motorway—because everybody will be used to it already; there will already have been expenditure on it —will by then cost a greater differential to put the road somewhere else than it would now before the A.66 is improved in the first place. This, I think, is the error.
When success in one venture; namely, the enrichment of West Cumberland, depends on failure on another venture; namely, the protection of a National Park, then it seems to me that it is time to start again. Obviously, the right place for this road was North of Skiddaw. If you cannot hope to drive it through the National Park and prevent it turning into a motorway in ten, twenty or thirty years' time, then it ought to go somewhere where it does not matter if it does turn into a motorway if it succeeds in its prime purpose. That place is North of Skid- 404 daw on the Solway slope outside the National Park. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to tell We House how much more it would have cost to go North of Skiddaw, and how much longer it would take travelling at 60 m.p.h. to go North of Skiddaw. I am sure that the first will be an impressive figure of some millions of pounds more; but I think the second will be an unimpressive figure, and going at 60 m.p.h. it would probably only take ten to 15 minutes more to get round Skiddaw from the M.6 where it goes to Scotland.
To conclude, my Lords, I share—and I hope that all of us on these Benches share—the alarm, almost the horror, certainly the disdain for this rotten planning decision which has been expressed by noble Lords on the other side of the House. I think it is only a few years since it would have seemed no more than a bad dream that anyone should have thought of putting a dual carriageway on a wall beside Bassenthwaite Lake. If you can do that, then there is no limit to what you can do, and, speaking seriously, anything can happen. I will not name it, because noble Lords will have their own nightmares—and that one is practically a nightmare. I think we have gone a long way from Lord Sand-ford's Benedicite; the high hopes that he held out to the House of the sort of Ministry they were going to be across the road in the triple towers, in that remarkable speech. It has indeed been belied by this decision and by the three others that I have mentioned in the series of four.
During this debate the Government have been asked to change their minds and to put the road somewhere else. I do not know what the statutory situation is, but in most planning decisions once the Secretary of State has made up his mind he cannot go back and change it, because to do so would land, not him, but the local authority, with a very large compensation bill: it would fall on the rates, and in common human justice he could not do that, Whether the Secretary of State as Minister of Transport can change his mind, I do not know. I should like to ask the Government whether in law he can. And if he can, would he land anybody up with compensation? I should not have thought so. There is no direct loss of revenue or capital value incurred by anybody as a result of a change. It 405 will be interesting to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, has to say about this. If he cannot change his mind in law, then I think that all that those of us who have the interests of the National Parks and the recreation of the people at heart can hope for is that somebody may find a legal flaw in the decision and take the Secretary of State to the High Court and get it reversed there.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I have listened, needless to say, with very great interest to the points which have been made during the course of this debate. The views which your Lordships have expressed are of course a reflection of the great depth of feeling which the Government are aware has been aroused by the A.66 proposals. There are many noble Lords who treasure the Lake District above all our National Parks. We are not Philistines. I believe it was Coleridge who said:'Tis sweet to him who all the weekThrough city crowds must push his way,To stroll alone through fields and woodsAnd hallow thus the Sabbath-day.I think this is a feeling which is probably sympathetic to the tone of our debate to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made that point particularly well.
We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for having brought this subject out into the open. Your Lordships' House has produced an enormous range of talent during this debate to-night and noble Lords have spoken with great knowledge and depth of feeling. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who read out the general principles which should guide Government when dealing with roads, that I found myself completely in agreement with him I should not think that any Government, and certainly not the present Government, would disagree with the general principles that he enunciated. We had what seemed rather like a note of slight despair from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, when he spoke of the "mixture as before". That is not really so and I should like to stress at this moment that we perhaps should clarify what is being done.
The Government know exactly what is happening. The Daily Telegraph last 406 Saturday talked, as some noble Lords have to-day also, ofpushing a motorway through this beautiful Lake District.That is not the fact. We are not doing that. My noble friends Lord Molson and Lord Wakefield, like many other noble Lords, seemed to be under the impression that this was what was to be done. I might say that we are dealing here with the improvement of 33 miles from Workington to Penrith; we are proposing to improve those existing 33 miles of twisting and narrow single-carriageway trunk road. For the most part we are going to widen the road to a width of 24 ft., with appropriate verges. I would say to my noble friend Lord Wakefield that we are not going to have concrete kerbs and roads: it will be black asphalt and it will not be the eyesore that he seems to fear.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend, I would point out that it is so already. As you go westwards from Penrith into Keswick, with those Fell views in front of you, the road has already got these great wide verges and wide concrete kerbs. It is not a case of spoiling what is there: the artificiality is already happening. It is there.
§ LORD HEWLETT
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, may I say that from Dunmail Raise and on the bypass by the Vale of St. John, going up to Keswick, precisely the same thing applies. It may not be a motorway, but it is going to be a heavy arterial industrial road.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I was talking about the improvements which are now under discussion. Obviously I cannot argue about what has been done in the past. On these 33 miles will be four sections of dual carriageway on the improved realigned road; but these are only going to amount in total to 6½ miles. It will not be, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, 6½ miles along Bassenthwaite; it will be 6½ miles in totality out of the 33.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how much dual carriageway would be along Bassenthwaite?
My Lords, I apologise if I have overstated it: it is certainly several miles. Would my noble friend not agree with me that that particular road, which is going to have two 24 ft. carriageways, with the verges to what are called "the appropriate standards", will make this road exactly the same as the A.1 running through Nottinghamshire?
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, perhaps I might leave the Bassenthwaite question until later, and then I will answer the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and by my noble friend. The dual carriageways, to the extent that I have described, are being provided, for example, where improvement of the existing carriageway is needed to give adequate forward vision when overtaking. This would require more earthworks, and consequently more disturbance of the landscape, than retention of the existing road as part of a dual carriageway system and provision of a separate new carriageway. Westwards of Keswick, whenever possible, use is being made of the disused railway line from Workington to Penrith. I think that my noble friend Lord Hewlett, in his powerful speech, rather suggested that railways had not penetrated to the Lake District. I am sure that my noble friend will realise that the disused railway is to be used by the Government for parts of the new road to avoid taking up more land.
§ LORD HEWLETT
My Lords, with respect to the Minister, I said they now have no railway. My comment was a fair one. That was the only railway, which is now disused, in the Lake District.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
Yes, my Lords, but the railway did penetrate there: that was the point I was making. And we are going to use it. This is going to have considerable advantage in minimising the severance of property and the loss of agricultural land. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked me a question about compulsory purchase orders. He mentioned the fact of his not having seen a plan. My information is that before the district valuer commences his negotiation to acquire the land, the Treasury has to approve what the district valuer is suggesting and after that the compulsory purchase order is made and the land- 408 owners can see a plan of the land in general terms on a scale of 1:2,500 in the council offices.
My Lords, I did not in fact mention anything about price: I particularly avoided saying anything about that. All I said was that I thought it very remarkable that when compulsory purchase orders were issued, the landowner was first told about this in very general terms and then served with details, and then months after that there is no plan saying what land in fact it is intended to acquire. They seem to refer to parts of certain Ordnance numbers. Furthermore, I should have thought that anybody concerned, by standards of normal courtesy would be given a plan and not have to trail to the county council offices to make a tracing there on his own. However, perhaps we might leave this point: it is really a small one.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I agree. I felt I should say that the district valuer was also involved in this.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I wonder whether the House would permit me to intervene? The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has suggested that we might leave the point. I think that is very generous of him but if he makes a complaint that his land is to be taken without his receiving the courtesy of a map showing what part is to be taken, is it a proper answer to his question—which is of course also of interest to the whole House—if the Minister then introduces the district valuer and seems to imply that the noble Lord was complaining about the price he was likely to receive?—which he was not.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I take the point. It is all part of the process which the noble Lord fully knows about. I really must draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that this debate is limited to 21, hours, and if I am to get through my speech I shall only do so by going slightly faster and not allowing myself to be interrupted. I say that with great respect to your Lordships, but we are very strictly bound by our rules on these debates.
One of the main planks of those who have opposed the Department's proposals 409 is that improvement of the A.66 through the National Park is incompatible with the National Parks and Countryside legislation. The noble Lords, Lord Strang, Lord Chorley and Lord Molson have drawn attention to this. I must remind them that Section 5(1) of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 said the purposes of the Act included,promoting their enjoyment by the public".and that Section 1(2) of the Countryside Act 1968 spoke ofencouraging the provision and improvement for persons resorting to the countryside, of facilities for the enjoyment of the countryside".By far the mater part of the traffic which does and will use the A.66 has its origin and/or its destination within the Park. Having considered all the arguments in the chapter of his report headed, "The Road and the Park" the inspector concluded that access is and must remain one of the principal purposes of the Park because this is a pre-requisite to public enjoyment. It has been argued that his interpretation of "access" is misleading because it is used in the 1949 Act only in the context of access to open country where the public can roam at will, on foot or on horseback; but no one, I think, will deny that the public cannot enjoy a Park unless they can get there conveniently and safely by normal means of transport.
I would also remind critics that although Section II of the 1968 Act enjoins Ministers in the exercise of their functions relating to land to have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside, it was not intended that this should be to the exclusion of every other consideration. In Section 37 of that same Act it states that a Minister must also,have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas".In this context it is perhaps of no little significance that improvement of the A.66 has been vigorously supported, not only by the West Cumberland local authorities and Cumberland County Council but also by all local authorities on the line of the route within the National Park.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, who has been interrupted so frequently, but I 410 noticed that earlier on he was tearing up pieces of paper after he had read them. It must be obvious to the noble Lord that lie is not going to persuade anybody who has spoken in this debate by reading out what I feel is a most appalling brief that he has been provided with. Would he not accept, not as a jocular but as a reasonable piece of advice, that he should forget about the rest of the brief, without committing himself to anything, and tell his right honourable friend the general tenor of this debate?
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I have very great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and my right honourable friend will listen to what he has said, but if the noble Lord will do me the kindness of listening to the points which I have here he will see that it is not a bad case. I do not think we have to blush or be ashamed. We must not prejudge this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, talked about "conning" I do not think that is an appropriate term; we are not trying to con anyone. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, suggested that informed opinion had not had a chance to do anything about this matter—
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, informed opinion could not do anything until it received the report. It received the report on the same day as the Orders were laid. What possible chance was there of its influencing the Minister?
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and other noble Lords who have spoken to-night, gave evidence. They were the informed opinion. The noble Lord is part of the informed opinion. The inspector took the measure of noble Lords and their advisers. He produced a report which my right honourable friend has considered, and he has issued his instructions.
It is true that there is a conflict between conservation and access, however this is defined, and the inspector complained that he was given inadequate advice by those who appeared at the inquiry on the priority to be given to these Park purposes. The Government are well aware that improvement of the national road network and the continuing increase in car ownership have exerted new pressures on National Parks. Indeed, this was one 411 of the main reasons why the Secretary of State in July, 1971, appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Sandford to review National Parks policy. This Committee has been considering, among other things, the effect of motor-borne visitors on Parks. I cannot of course anticipate the recommendations of the Committee, but I can say that none of the evidence submitted to it has advocated restricting access to major tourist centres such as Keswick.
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Inglewood for his kind reference to my noble friend Lord Sandford. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred to the Keswick By-pass. It is obviously going to affect a very sensitive area on the route. He asked me in particular about the height of the bridge. I am advised that on the Keswick Northern By-pass there is to be a two-level junction at its eastern end and a bridge over the River Greta, 740 ft. long and 100 ft, above the river. When viewed in relation to the topography of the surrounding area, which has dictated the reed for the two-level junction, and the landscape treatment which the Department proposes, one realises that these are not structures standing starkly above their surroundings but, through careful design and treatment, they will blend into the landscape and may indeed even become a feature of it.
One of the nubs of this debate has been the section dealing with the Bassenthwaite Lake. My right honourable friend has been criticised severely by your Lordships and others for not accepting the inspector's recommendation that the line of the proposed second carriageway alongide Bassenthwaite Lake, which follows the railway line, should be modified to reduce the amount of encroachment into the lake. I can assure you that this recommendation was very carefully considered. It would be possible to re-align the carriageway to bring it nearer to the existing road, but the conclusion was that the length of the embankment and its appearance from the Lake or the eastern shore would be much the same. The effect upon the land lying between the two carriageways would, however, be extremely damaging. More trees would have to be cleared and, because of the difference in levels between 412 the two carriageways, high retaining walls would need to be constructed. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had a picture of a vertical wall. I am advised that it will be a sloping bank with a gradient of 1 in 3, of chipped stones with shrubs planted around them.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, may I, for the sake of posterity, ask the noble Lord to repeat that? He said there would be chipped stones with shrubs along the banks of Bassenthwaite. That is right, is it not? I could hardly believe my ears.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, there is the existing road and we are now making, use of the railway. The railway will be the Southbound road. It will not have a vertical wall.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
Not into the Lake.
My Lords, reduction of the distance by which the new carriageway encroaches on to the Lake is not of critical importance, since a new share line is established in either case. The critical factor is what happens to the land between the new and existing carriageways. The wider the gap between the carriageways, the greater the scope for preserving the existing trees and therefore for preserving the landscape. It is not perhaps widely known that getting on for half the existing western shore of the Lake is artificial, but the scars of the railway construction have been healed by the passage of time and the growth of vegetation. The Department proposes to plant trees and shrubs to speed up the process of natural rehabilitation.
There will be along the Southbound lane on the old railway a footpath. That will be nearest to the Lake. So when we speak about tunnelling and things like that we are opening access to views of the lake for pedestrians which have not been there before.
My Lords, this reference to a footpath which was spoken about a great deal at the inquiry, will the noble Lord expand on that and tell us a little more? At one time it was even going to be cantilevered out over 413 the water, but it will mean (will he not agree?) that it will be immediately adjacent to the Southbound carriageway where nobody would want to walk with 60 m.p.h. juggernauts going along at exhaust level with his head.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is being a little fanciful. If there is a footpath it is not on the road; it is alongside. If you do not look at the road you can look at the lake and at Skiddaw.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, not if you stick to the footpath. I should like at this point to pay tribute to the inspector, as other noble Lords have done—
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, I wonder whether he could answer my question about the length of dual carriageway beside the lake?
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I have detailed maps here and if I may I would rather pass the map to the noble Lord so that he can see it for himself. I am watching the clock. The inspector conducted a marathon public inquiry into our proposals at Penrith over a year ago and I think everyone has admired the clarity of his report. Among all those who have complained over his main recommendation, that the Secretary of State should make the orders for the proposed A.66 improvements, no one has actually faulted Sir Robert Scott's careful and, I might add, eminently readable report.
I should like to speak briefly about the second part of the Question. As I have already pointed out, we recognised the pressures exerted by the continuing increase in car ownership and usage in National Parks. The Government also recognise the opportunity which the A.66 decision has created for a new look at traffic management problems in the Lake District. With through traffic attracted to an improved A.66, it may well be possible, as I have suggested, to restrict heavy through traffic from using parts 414 at least of the A.591 road from Keswick to Kendal. This is a matter for which Parliament has given powers to local highway authorities, in this case Westmorland and Cumberland County Councils. They have such a possibility under active consideration. There are obviously problems, such as over enforcement of restrictions, since, as I have already said, a high proportion of heavy vehicles using roads in the Park have business in the Park, serving those who live and work there.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend, I was aware, of course, of those powers. Why then did the inspector say that he did not recommend the use of those powers to restrict industrial traffic on the A.66 road? Really, my noble friend must not think that because this deplorable decision has been taken about the A.66 that that is any reason for us to be especially pleased at the introduction of some traffic restriction on another road.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, there are parts of the Lake District which must have access, as I have just been explaining. My noble friend has described the inspector's report correctly. My right honourable friend has to look at the general picture. I think one of the things that came out was that even if he did recommend the Sebergham route being used for heavy traffic it would still not be sufficient. There would still have to be improvements to the A.66. This is the point which we must grasp. It would not solve the entire problem.
The A.66 improvements will not be completed for two or three years. To examine traffic management possibilities and problems such as these over the Lake District as a whole, together with its approaches, the Department has decided that a meeting should be called at an early date in the Lake District, of representatives of the statutory bodies concerned: the local highway authorities—that is, Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland County Councils; the Lake District Planning Board; and the Countryside Commission under the chairmanship of the Department of the Environment's Regional Director in the North. Invitations to the meeting went out last weekend and we suggested a 415 joint study by a Working Party with wide terms of reference:Having regard to the desirability of preserving the natural beauty of the National Park and of improving opportunities in it for the enjoyment of the countryside and for open air recreation, while providing suitably for the convenience of those who live in the Park, to consider the movement of road traffic in the Park and on the approaches to it, to examine the scope for and means of controlling that traffic and standing vehicles, and to make recommendations".I am sure your Lordships will welcome this initiative by my right honourable friend. I should like to say, like the noble Lord, Lord Henley, how sorry I am that the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, was not able to be here because he wrote very fully and his letter will be taken fully into account in the course of the proposed traffic management study which will, I hope rapidly, agree recommendations for action.
If the county councils, who are the traffic authorities concerned, approach my right honourable friend the Secretary of State he will give sympathetic consideration to the banning of through heavy traffic on the A.591 route. It would not be feasible to stop all such traffic, as noble Lords will be aware, because of traffic which has a delivery or collection point in the area, but it would obviously cut out a sizeable proportion of such traffic. Earlier I referred—
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the House will not agree that it is not feasible to control heavy traffic simply because somebody is delivering goods. It is perfectly feasible to make a regulation saying "No heavy traffic will come on this road", whether or not it is delivering goods.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I think that is unreasonable. If there is a load of something it has to be delivered. You cannot make people live in a desert, and I believe that if the noble Lord will think about what he has said, he will see that it is unreasonable.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I have thought it over and I do not think it is 416 unreasonable to insist that in certain places goods should be delivered by light lorries and not by heavy ones. If the noble Lord, speaking on behalf of the Government, is saying that it is always unreasonable to make this stipulation, I think the House will wish to take note of this important statement of Government policy.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I am only saying that where deliveries have to be made by lorries one has to allow that to be done, and I think any local council representing their voters' interests would not wish to do otherwise. Of course we would wish to keep what noble Lords have referred to as "juggernauts" from this area as much as we can.
Getting hack to the requirement of the Countryside Act of 1968, that Ministers should have regard to the desirability of conserving the national amenity of the countryside, in this context I think it is proper for me to remind noble Lords of the considerable environmental benefits which can be gained within the Lake District from this improvement of the A.66. The by-passing of tourist centres such as Keswick and Cockermouth (where at present heavy traffic passes William Wordsworth's birthplace), for instance, and other places along the line of the route, will do much to relieve the traffic congestion which anyone who knows these centres will have experienced, and deplore, particularly at the height of the tourist season. Furthermore, it is hoped that the improved M.6/A.66 link to West Cumberland will attract heavy vehicles away from the A.591 Kendal to Keswick route and thus relieve places such as Ambleside and Grasmere in the very heart of the Lake District. This is a point which I think is well worth considering carefully in connection with the proposal in regard to the A.66. The Eastern end of the Keswick Northern by-pass on the A.66 has been deliberately designed to encourage through traffic from the West to continue along the A.66 to join the M.6 at Penrith instead of branching off South from Keswick.
I have mentioned the special attention which has been given in the design of this road to the use of landscaping techniques to minimise the effect of the road on the landscape. Active consideration is also being given to the provision of 417 special facilities on the route, such as viewing points and picnic areas at selected places. The new carriageway and footpath along the disused railway by Bassenthwaite Lake will open up to visitors views of the Lake and of Skiddaw beyond, which are almost totally hidden from the existing road. There is indeed much scope for the development of the A.66 in the Lake District as a scenic route for public enjoyment and, after all, whatever the original intentions may have been, many present-day visitors to the Parks do want to enjoy the scenery from their cars. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, instanced Switzerland. I have motored round lakes in Switzerland and Italy and they are enjoyable places.
§ 8.30 p.m.
My Lords, I have just time to wind up. The noble Lord's speech has indeed exposed the weaknesses of the Secretary of State's decision. I shall say no more. He has had an awful battering. He has no friends and I shall leave the matter there. I am less concerned with the actual details of this road, as I said at the beginning. The issue of the road itself was debated over five weeks and nearly everything that the noble Lord said emerged at that inquiry. What I am concerned with is the ethos behind the inspector's reasons for his report. As 'the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that by itself would not necessarily have been important because a Minister can reject a report, but the fact that the rather Philistine and equivocal reasons put forward by the inspector have been accepted by the Minister is indeed sad. It seems to me that what has emerged from this debate is that there has been no serious planning and thought at all about roads in the area.
I was very struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said. He quoted the inspector as saying that at one moment he would have liked to stop the inquiry "until we have examined the Keswick traffic problem". That is a very remarkable statement. He also said that the Department admitted that they had no regional policy in respect of Lake District roads at all, and he actually quoted the paragraph. This indeed will 418 lead, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said to a gradual whittling away (because there is no proper policy) of what remains of the very small amount of natural beauty left in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, it is a ruinous precedent.
There also emerged the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, that the inadequacy of the existing legislation, and in particular of the two Acts, with regard to National Parks. That is really only one point. The inadequacy of the legislation applies to a great deal of planning in this kind of context. But so far as the National Parks are concerned there is this "vagueness"—-I think was the word used—about the terms which allow a developer with his concrete propositions to "make hay" with an objector, who can only appeal, as your Lordships frequently did, to Wordsworth and Coleridge. How effectively this was done was demonstrated at Cow Green in another equally disastrous decision.
I am about to be told to shut up because, as your Lordships know, this is a short debate and there is about one minute to go. I end by reminding your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, that if you can do the kind of things that are proposed along the lakeside at Bassenthwaite, you can do anything. I have "called attention" as I hoped to do, and some extremely distinguished noble Lords who have had immense experience in this field have joined me. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, has been battered by people interjecting every two minutes, but I hope that the Government will take note of what some of the extremely distinguished noble Lords in your Lordships' House have said to-night. With that I can do no more than ask leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, is it your Lordships' pleasure that this Motion be withdrawn?
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: No!
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.