HL Deb 17 February 1993 vol 542 cc1124-5

2.58 p.m.

Lord Bullock asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the two bypasses proposed for north Oxford and Headington, in order to relieve traffic congestion on the A.40, are intended to form part of a new trunk road from the east coast ports to the west of England, bringing up to 20,000 to 30,000 more vehicles a day into the outskirts of Oxford and the Oxford green belt.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, each of these schemes is free-standing, and designed to resolve different problems on the A.40. A study is at present in hand to identify the most suitable link between Aylesbury, the M.40 and the Oxford area. Any future increases in traffic in the Oxford area will be primarily as a result of general traffic growth.

Lord Bullock

My Lords, the noble Earl's Answer is reassuring, but does he agree that it still leaves unanswered the question as to whether the bypasses will be incorporated into, and are meant to be incorporated into, the east coast ports route, which connects the east coast ports with the west of England? Does he further agree that what interests people is whether they are to be confronted with the same as happened in the case of the road connecting the west of England with the channel ports? Will the Department of Transport repeat the procedure that was followed on that occasion, presenting the route in 30 separate schemes, including 21 bypasses, each of which was planned and assessed individually, without any attempt to carry out a strategic review for the whole route?

Noble Lords


Lord Bullock

My Lords, the question is whether the Department of Transport will follow the same procedure in this case, despite the fact that the Standing Advisory Committee recommended that it should not do that. It said that on all occasions there should be a strategic overview of the whole route and not just local schemes.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sorry that I did not make the position clear to the noble Lord in my Answer. I shall repeat it. Each of the schemes is free-standing and designed to resolve different problems on the A.40. A study is at present in hand to identify the most suitable link between Aylesbury, the M.40 and the Oxford area.

Baroness Faithful

My Lords, does the Minister agree that already a great deal of land has been taken from the countryside of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire for the M.40 and its extension to Birmingham? Is it not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to persuade more people to travel by rail rather than by road?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend and I share that route to Oxford. We know what land has been taken. I know that she will be equally concerned about the environment surrounding the long queues and the pollution caused at Headington in North Oxford by existing poor roads.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, referring to the actual Question on the Order Paper, can the Minister explain whether any environmental concerns were raised during the lengthy consultation period? Were any issues raised in regard to the position of the green belt? If so, what were they and what was the Government's reply?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is slightly ahead of the game in that the draft orders have not yet been published. The first will be published just before Easter and the second later in the year. Consultation will then take place where the anxieties expressed by the noble Lord —which are extremely valid—will be raised.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, at what point will environmental impact assessments be carried out, or have they already been done?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, as I understand the procedure, environmental assessments will be made and laid with the draft orders.