HL Deb 26 June 1989 vol 509 cc475-7

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they approved the action of the Kensington and Chelsea council in reducing the width of the roadway in Kensington High Street.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the borough council sought the consent of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport under Schedule 5 to the Local Government Act 1985, which requires his approval for works affecting roads designated as part of the strategic network in London. Kensington High Street is not itself a designated road and it was not expected that the borough's experimental scheme would have any significant effect on designated roads in the area. My right honourable friend therefore had no reason to withhold his approval.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Can he say whether his right honourable friend will keep a close eye on the possibility—many people think the probability—of an increase in the already severe traffic congestion in the road now that it has been narrowed?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the scheme was approved as an experiment for 18 months. The borough will need to seek further approval under the designated road procedures if it wishes to make the scheme permanent.

Lord Merrivale

My Lords, in all logic, by narrowing a road how can one improve the traffic flow? Before the application was made to the Secretary of State, from whom did the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea seek guidance? Who did it consult before taking this decision approved by the Secretary of State?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the borough consulted the police, the traffic control systems unit, fire and ambulance authorities, bus managers, adjoining local authorities and local amenity groups. I believe that its consultation could therefore be said to have been reasonably extensive.

On improving the traffic flow, it is for the borough to explain a scheme on its own road. It has to be said that Kensington High Street has a poor safety record; there have been a fairly large number of pedestrian accidents. That, of course, is regrettable. The scheme is intended to help improve the situation.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend issue a general directive that unless it is proven that pavements are grossly overcrowded, it is always better to widen the roads than to narrow the pavements? If the pavements are overcrowded with shoppers, that is of course an exception. Commercial vans are unloading at stores in these roads at some time during the day. If one reduces the flow to a single line of traffic there is a very little flexibility for such activities or for dealing with accidents when they occur. We see money constantly being spent on narrowing roads when space is badly needed to meet traffic demands.

Noble Lords


Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is for the borough to reconcile the needs of pedestrians in what is a busy shopping street with those of motor traffic. I understand that such works were accompanied by an adjustment of the traffic lights at either end. That was intended to alleviate the situation. It is an experimental scheme for 18 months. One will be better able to judge the situation at the end of that time.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the Minister agree that this Question would be more appropriately addressed to the local press?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as I explained in my original Answer, the Secretary of State had a role to play. Although it was not a designated road, it could have affected other designated roads in the area. Therefore, my right honourable friend's permission was sought.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I declare my interest as a ratepayer. Does the Minister take a little comfort from the fact that by and large the council does a jolly fine job? Do the considerations not only cover the traffic flow, but also how pedestrians cross those very busy streets? Some pedestrians are disabled.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I quite agree with my noble friend. It is primarily a matter for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is one of its roads. I would not hesitate to agree with my noble friend on the first part of his supplementary question.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Minister has twice stated that the decision is a matter for the borough council. Yet earlier he said that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State gave approval. In view of some of the questions that have been asked on pedestrian safety, is he satisfied? From where did he receive his advice on the matter?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, although this is a borough council road, my right honourable friend's permission was sought because of the effect the plan might have had on the designated roads in the area, although it is not in itself a designated road. That is why the department was asked for its approval. That is why our people looked into the matter.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is the Minister saying that the Secretary of State did not take into consideration any question of pedestrian safety? Is it argued that that is not his job and that he has merely to look at the neighbouring roads?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in this case the job of the Secretary of State is to look at the scheme's effect on any designated roads in the area. The issues of pedestrian safety, which is a very important one, and indeed of the road itself are for the borough council.

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