HL Deb 15 December 1981 vol 426 cc162-4WA
Lord Melchett

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, following their decision not to hold a public inquiry into the A.34 Whitway diversion in Hampshire, which threatens Highclere Park, they will state:

  1. (a) How many objections to the proposed diversion they have received;
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  3. b) whether they received a petition signed by local people objecting to the proposed diversion and how many signatures it contained;
  4. (c) whether they agree that an " appreciable " number of objections cannot be " few in number " as they have to be under the Government's Highways Manual (paragraph 31) before a public inquiry is dispensed with, and why they have therefore decided not to hold such an inquiry when they have announced that they have received an " appreciable " number of objections to this proposal;
  5. (d) when they intend to hold meetings with the outstanding objectors, or ask them to enlarge on the grounds of their objections, and why these and other steps to resolve such objections were not taken before this decision was taken, and whether they agree that they have failed to carry out the steps set out in the Highways Manual, paragraph 34, lines 2 and 3;
  6. (e) when they intend to send letters by recorded delivery giving objectors a final opportunity to withdraw their objections or to submit within four weeks any additional information to be taken into account in considering whether an inquiry should be dispensed with as laid down in paragraph 34 of the Highways Manual, and why this was not done before they decided not to hold a public inquiry;
  7. (f) whether they consider that the Department of Transport's Press Notice 81/650/S 180 issued on 30th November 1981, and the letters sent to objectors setting out the terms of this Press Notice, amount to the notifications required under paragraph 35 of the Highways Manual.

The Earl of Avon

TheHighways Manual, to which the noble Lord refers, gives guidance to officials of the Department of Transport on policy and procedures for use in day to day administration of their highways duties. It is not intended as a statement of Government policy, and it certainly does not remove the duty on Ministers and officials to consider each case on its merits.

As explained in the letter sent to objectors on 27th November about the A.34 Whitway Diversion, my right honourable friends were satisfied that they would have sufficient information to enable them to decide whether or not to make the draft orders for this scheme without holding a public inquiry, and that the holding of such an inquiry would cause unnecessary delay and uncertainty.

On points of detail:

  1. (a) My right honourable friends have received 60 letters of objection to the proposed diversion, and 26 letters supporting it.
  2. (b) They have received petitions objecting to the proposed diversion, containing 165 signatures with a wide variety of addresses. Only about 25 appear to be in the parishes of Highclere or Burghclere, and about a further 40 have addresses in the Newbury area. They have also received a petition containing 404 signatures of residents of Burghclere, supporting the published proposals.
  3. (c) By request the department have already held a number of meetings with objectors and those who have made representations and are willing to hold further meetings if requested to do so.
  4. (d) A letter was sent on 27th November, giving all who have objected or made representations an opportunity to amplify their objection or representation by 4th January 1982.