HL Deb 26 July 2000 vol 616 cc563-6

(" .—(l) As part of their local transport plan, and subject to guidance issued by the Secretary of State, a local transport authority may designate any residential road or roads within their area as a home zone, and any rural road within their area as a quiet lane, for any or all of the following purposes—

  1. (a) improving the environment;
  2. (b) improving the safety and security of the community in whose area the home zone is situated;
  3. (c) improving safety on rural roads, especially for pedestrians, pedal cyclists and horse riders, by reducing the risk of accidents;
  4. (d) protecting the character and distinctiveness of the countryside from damage to traffic.

(2) The Secretary of State may introduce regulations with regard to home zones or quiet lanes which may have any or all of the following effects—

  1. (a) giving pedestrians and pedal cyclists precedence on any highway in a home zone, and pedestrians, pedal cyclists and horseriders precedence on any quiet lane;
  2. (b) requiring the driver of any mechanically powered vehicle to accord such precedence to any pedestrian, pedal cyclist or horse rider;
  3. (c) requiring pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders to show reasonable behaviour towards any mechanically powered vehicle, and not wilfully to obstruct its passage;
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  5. (d) requiring physical or other measures to reduce traffic speeds to no more than 10 mph in a road designated as a home zone, or 20 mph on a designated quiet lane.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 423. I need not take up your Lordships' time at this hour of the night to explain the concept of home zones and quiet lanes. I know that Ministers have been much persuaded by the experiences of our European neighbours. In many continental towns and cities, home zones have made a significant contribution to the safety of vulnerable road users and have encouraged walking and cycling. Perhaps most significantly in the long term, reclaiming space for people rather than vehicles has done much to foster a sense of community, which we all fear is fast disappearing.

Quiet lanes are rather different in character and a less well proven concept but they could make an equally valuable contribution to safe and sustainable transport in rural areas, as well as improving the quality of life.

I am sure that we are all looking forward with interest to the outcome of the pilot schemes currently under development but it seems a shame not to draw on the vast experience of our European neighbours. They have shown that where there are successful home zones, cars do not take priority over pedestrians and cyclists and are required to move at walking pace, although in practice something like 9 miles per hour is tolerated.

In Committee in another place the Minister said that the Government would consider changing the law if the evidence of the pilot projects showed that it was necessary. Our Amendment No. 422 is intended to help the Government by providing a framework within which they could, by regulation, achieve these schemes, which have such widespread support.

In Amendment No. 423 we are again seeking to help the Government to achieve their road safety objectives by enabling the development of a rural road hierarchy. The Government's road safety strategy, which highlights the well understood link between speed and accident rates, further points out that our rural roads have a serious accident problem. My authority, Suffolk County Council, chose to address that by introducing a presumed 30 miles per hour speed limit in all villages. Although that has been highly successful, both in terms of reducing accident rates and speed, a more strategic whole route approach would have been even more effective.

An area-wide route hierarchy would enable local authorities to develop a network in which roads are used for the purposes for which they are truly fitted rather than an outdated classification. Not only would objectives of safety and sustainability be served by that, but road maintenance, signing, lighting and movement of freight would also be better served.

On several occasions during the passage of this Bill the Minister has referred to the toolkit approach, intending to provide local authorities with the tools that they need to do the job. I urge the Government to add those extra tools to the kit. I beg to move.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I, too, have put my name to this amendment. Although at this time of the evening I shall not indulge my personal reminiscences about my accidents in vehicles of different kinds, I have some personal experience of the problems caused by a combination of faulty marking of roads and an inability to have speed limits on rural roads. I believe that we need to attend to both of those matters. Allowing rural areas, in particular, to set up hierarchies of roads and, therefore, to sign them adequately for the benefit of those who use them will be a serious step forward towards reducing the unfortunately high incidence of motor accidents in the countryside.

Lord Berkeley

I rise to support this amendment. I was slightly surprised not to see it in Part II, somewhere near Clause 107, but I am sure there is a good reason for that. It seems to embody many things about which noble Lords have been arguing in the way of implementing the transport White Paper. In particular it would be great to see something like the home zones on the face of the Bill, which could be implemented where local authorities require them.

Baroness Thomas of Wallisvvood

The intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminds me that at an earlier stage in the passage of this Bill I tabled an amendment that I hoped would act as an enabling amendment with regard to the local road hierarchy amendment and the speed limits that would flow from that. Unfortunately, that amendment did not find favour with the Minister. Perhaps he can be persuaded that a redrafting of that enabling amendment may be of value. I hope he will address that matter in his reply.

I hope we have achieved some safety amendments to this part of the Bill which is titled "Miscellaneous and supplementary". During Committee stage, or any other part of the passage of a Bill, we are not permitted to change the titles or the sideline titles of a Bill, but perhaps the Minister will consider renaming it "Safety, miscellaneous and supplementary" to reflect what I hope will be its slightly different character.

Lord Whitty

Any consideration of that last point will depend on how we return to some of the issues on Report. While I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for tabling these amendments, I cannot accept them in their present form. I would like to take them away for consideration. Both home zones and a new approach to speed limits are central parts of our approach to urban and rural road accident problems and road safety problems. Clearly, while there are many provisions involved in establishing home zones, where existing regulations will allow local authorities to do what is required to establish a home zone, there may be others that are not there, although some of the specifics in the amendment of the noble Baroness run into the difficulties of absolute precedents which were discussed in another place.

I would have to look at that carefully. Nevertheless, I should like to take away that amendment, along with Amendment No. 423, which is probably too prescriptive for my taste. But it is important to give local authorities adequate powers to introduce new speed hierarchies in a way which is more rapid than the designation of speed limits on roads is for local authorities and is a less expensive and time consuming process.

Therefore I should like to look at both amendments in that context and return to this matter after the Summer Recess. We can then discuss whether these should be enabling clauses or the more prescriptive clauses tabled by the noble Baroness today. However, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn at this stage.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I have no intention of being prescriptive, either for him or anyone else. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 423 to 425 not moved.]

Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved Amendment No. 426:

After Clause 257, insert the following new clause—