HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1170-4

(" .—(1) As part of their local transport plan, and subject to guidance issued by the appropriate national authority, a local transport authority may designate any residential road within their area as a quiet lane.

(2) Designations of home zones or quiet lanes may be made 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. 1171
  4. (c) improving safety on rural road, especially for pedestrians, pedal cyclists and horse riders, by reducing the risk of accidents;
  5. (d) protecting the character and distinctiveness of the countryside from damage by traffic.

(3) At any future time the appropriate national authority 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 horse riders 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 horse riders to show reasonable behaviour towards any mechanically powered vehicle, and not wilfully to obstruct its passage;
  4. (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: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 318. Amendment No. 317 seeks to place the principles behind the creation of home zones and quiet lanes on the face of the Bill. Home zones, which are a well-established part of urban planning in much of Continental Europe, are residential streets in which cars travel at little more than walking pace and where cyclists and pedestrians take priority. We have seen how such zones not only contribute to a lower accident rate among vulnerable road users but also help to regenerate blighted urban streets, as well as fostering a sense of community. Quiet lanes are less commonplace, although they are being used extensively on the island of Jersey, where legislation is being introduced to give priority to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

In this country the Countryside Agency has three pilot schemes in which a particular route is designated as a quiet lane where walking, cycling and riding are encouraged and vehicles are subject to a 20 mile-an-hour speed limit. Local authorities are beginning to introduce home zones and quiet lanes on an experimental basis. We await with interest the outcome of their endeavours. But there is a substantial body of evidence from elsewhere in Europe which demonstrates that it is the issue of precedents that makes the scheme successful.

When I tabled similar amendments in Committee, the Minster expressed some support for the principles that I outlined but said that he found my amendments to be over-prescriptive. I sincerely hope that my new amendments will find favour in the eyes of the noble Lord in so far as they leave the question of priority to the appropriate national authority to introduce as a matter of regulation.

On these Benches we have attempted to use the relatively rare occasion of a transport Bill as an opportunity to give voice to some of the issues that were raised in the Government's own road safety strategy earlier in the year and which required primary legislation. It seems a pity to miss this opportunity.

Amendment No. 318 follows on from Amendment No. 317, at least in part, in that it relates to the creation of safer rural roads. The government's road safety strategy contains a commitment to develop a rural road hierarchy, which would enable local authorities to update their current classifications and to create more appropriate speed management strategies. Primary legislation is required to reclassify roads according to their current function and quality. Guidance is proposed to ensure national consistency.

The conventional approach to road safety in rural areas is to carry out spot treatments on sites with high accident levels. In rural areas that often leads to outbreaks of signing and rashes of paint on roads. It can often result in accidents happening elsewhere along the road. It is becoming very clear that a more strategic approach is needed, as well as reconsideration of the national 60-mile-an-hour speed limit that is relevant along most of our rural roads.

An analysis of road accidents in 1999 showed that accidents in rural areas accounted for 1,800 deaths and that 13,000 people were seriously injured, with almost 70,000 slightly injured. That is a terrible toll. I am sure that we all share in the Government's determination to reduce the road casualty toll. The creation of a rural road hierarchy could make a significant contribution to that objective. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I support both these amendments. As the noble Baroness said, we discussed this issue in Committee. It is terribly important that home zones are given a lot more thought. Both the question of speed and that of precedents are vital to their success. I should like to draw the attention of noble Lords to some other figures from the famous transport statistics for this year. These facts apply to 30-mile-an-hour speed limited roads, which are probably the ones about which we are talking. They reveal that over 50 per cent of all cars, lorries, light vehicles, buses, coaches and motorcycles exceed the speed limit. Moreover, 38 per cent of motorcyclists exceed it by more than 35 miles an hour. We do not need to be reminded of the relationship between speed and the severity of accidents.

The other consideration is priority. Naturally, cars have priority on roads but pedestrians should have priority on pavements. Where pedestrianisation schemes have merged the one into the other, there is a duty on the driver of the faster and the more protected vehicle to give way. I believe this to be a very good amendment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will take it most seriously. If, as so often happens, it is not quite what the Government want, perhaps he will be able to return at the next stage with an even better draft.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, the noble Baroness has put forward quite a good idea in these amendments. However, as regards the quiet lanes, does she think that there should be a speed limit? I am sure that they will very often be both narrow and winding, with, I hope, nice hedges on either side, which will make it rather difficult for drivers to see the pedestrians and the riders that the noble Baroness envisages using such quiet lanes.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I very much welcome the noble Baroness's persistence in this matter; indeed, probably more so than she knows. Although the Government did not favour the precise amendments that she put forward in Committee, which were not very dissimilar to the ones now before the House, I indicated then that we would seriously consider bringing forward other amendments. In the event, we have not managed to do so in time for the Report stage. However, as the noble Baroness rightly said, such issues are central to our road safety strategy and transport Bills do not come forward all that frequently.

Although we have not, as yet, received the full feedback from the pilot schemes on home zones, it is important to get these provisions on to the statute book. Therefore, I am in principle indicating to the noble Baroness that I accept both of these amendments but that I wish to bring forward my own amendments because there are one or two matters that it might be important to highlight. It is, of course, partly a question of drafting; for example, the list of reasons for declaring home zones may inadvertently be narrower than I or the noble Baroness would wish. As regards the rural road hierarchy, the amendment imposes the system upon the devolved administrations, which is inappropriate. We think that the requirement to produce guidance on the hierarchy within six months is over zealous. We need to have a fairly substantial consultation period which probably should be six months in itself. One needs a longer period to do a sensible job.

However, I shall meet those quibbles in the amendments that I intend to bring forward at Third Reading. If the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment, we shall bring forward appropriate amendments. However, I sound a note of caution on the home zone amendment. It will contain delegated powers which would normally be examined by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. However, it is too late for that, given the timescale between now and Third Reading. However, I believe that we are within our rights to say that the powers are similar to ones that already exist to which the delegated powers committee has "given the nod".

As regards the hierarchy, we should be able to table an amendment to ensure that we engage all parties and deliver an effective policy. As I say, I prefer the 12-month to the six-month period. Consultation will be required with the devolved administrations. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept my assurances that we shall adhere to the spirit of her amendments which make a serious contribution to our road safety strategy. We shall debate the matter again at Third Reading.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, I warmly thank the Minister and other noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment. As a member of Suffolk County Council I have taken an active interest in rural road safety issues for almost a decade. My authority is well known nationally for pioneering approaches to speed management. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that the amendments that the Government will bring forward will enable local authorities in this country to make the contribution that they very much want to make to reducing road casualties. I gladly beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 318 not moved.]

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 319: After Clause 257, insert the following new clause—