HL Deb 29 June 1989 vol 509 cc836-9

3.5 p.m.

Lord Hunt asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to announce their plans for major road development in London, in the light of the East London assessment studies commissioned by the Department of Transport.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has no plans at present to add to the trunk road programme in London. The East London assessment study is looking at a wide range of options to relieve the transport related problems within the study area corridor. The consultants' report is expected later in the summer and decisions will be taken as soon as possible after that.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Is he aware that eight of the 12 options proposed by the East London assessment study would destroy a remarkable rural amenity known as the Parkland Walk which runs between Highgate Fields and Finsbury Park? That amenity provides recreation for many thousands of people of all ages, is a useful educational resource, a habitat for many kinds of wildlife and is a unique unifying influence on the very mixed community in that part of London. In view of the strength of local feeling on this matter, can the noble Lord assure the House that before any decision is taken to build a highway along any part of the Parkland Walk, there will be a public inquiry, as happened in 1979 when the then Secretary of State for the Environment ruled that: the Parkland Walk warrants special protection"?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I can give the noble Lord an assurance that care for the environment is included in the objectives of the assessment study, so that the special nature of Parkland Walk will be fully considered. If there was—and I am not saying that there will be—a plan to build a road in Parkland Walk, that would have to go through the normal procedures.

Lord Elton

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House when his right honourable friend expects to receive the consultants' revised design for the East London river crossing, when as a consequence the bridge will be built, and if the programme has slipped as far as I fear it may have done, will he consider a third bore for the Blackwall Tunnel in the interim?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my right honourable friend hopes to make an announcement on the revised design of the East London river crossing very soon. The timing of completion will depend on the decision for the design of the bridge. However, it should be open in the mid-1990s.

As regards a third bore for the Blackwall Tunnel, the department has discussed implications for the proposed development of the Greenwich Peninsula, but there are no firm conclusions and no specific proposals at present.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is the Minister aware that when I saw a copy of the report of the working party on the East London assessment study, I was so concerned that in six of the options there was a dismissive attitude towards Parkland Walk, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred, that I wrote immediately to the Minister's ministerial colleague, the Minister for Roads and Traffic, and to the consultants to express my concern at that lack of consideration for environmental issues?

Is the Minister interested to know that as my information was based on excellent material sent to me by environmental bodies, last Sunday I walked the Parkland Walk with my wife, because I believe in knowing what I am talking about, and I can fully confirm everything that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said? I hope that that will be taken into consideration when the final report is issued.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am afraid I have not had the opportunity to walk the Parkland Walk myself. Clearly I shall have to speak to the noble Lord outside the Chamber about its merits. I have already said that environmental considerations will be taken into account.

Earl Russell

My Lords, have the East London assessment studies taken into account the knock-on effect of the roads proposed outside the study area corridor? In particular, have they considered the effect of the proposed Parkland Walk route on Spaniard's Corner, Hampstead Tube station and Swiss Cottage? If not, why not?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, of course the assessment will have to take account of what effects there will be on traffic outside the area. I remind the House that these are only assessment studies by consultants. They are not government proposals. Something needs to be done about the transport problems in that area and this is the best way of looking for the solution.

Lord Elton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the existing congestion in the Docklands? In particular, is he aware that 1,000 workers arrive every day to build more accommodation there? Their numbers will be increased by 4,000 in the next three to four weeks. They are building accommodation for 98,000 further jobs. What is the department going to do to avoid the resulting chaos, particularly at the Cotton Street junction?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we have a number of plans for improving the transport infrastructure in the Docklands, including road improvements, the expansion of the Docklands Light Railway and the possibility of a new Underground line to that area. As to Cotton Street, I do not have details with me.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is not the present chaos perhaps the result of the free operation of market forces?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

No, my Lords, it is a result of increased prosperity created by this Government in an otherwise rundown area.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is it not the case that this prosperity leads to chaos?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is not admitted as being chaos, but I think we would rather have prosperity than none.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that it is increasingly difficult to walk anywhere in London without being knocked over by traffic, fellow citizens or tourists? Will he bear that in mind in the sense of the original Question and preserve this walk if there is any way of doing so?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I think I have said as much about Parkland Walk as I can.

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