Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, on Tuesday delivered his transport vision for rural and urban Britain at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) annual lecture.
The Secretary of State announced a new design panel initiative to ensure that the proposed High Speed 2 line will have the highest quality design for structures along the route; be sensitive to local character and reduce the impact on surrounding landscapes.
He also outlined his ambitions for reduced speed limits in rural areas, the reduction of roadside clutter and significantly better transport options for rural communities, including £600m for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
CPRE was very pleased with many of the ambitions and initiatives outlined by the Secretary of State.
However, CPRE is concerned that current proposals for a major road building programme are at odds with the Transport Secretary’s desire for ‘fewer big, new roads through the countryside and less urban sprawl ’.
The Secretary of State responded to CPRE’s five key priorities for rural transport:
Roadside clutter: CPRE is pleased the profile of this issue has been raised along with the commitment to new sign guidance and rules. However we do need greater rights for communities to challenge clutter to take this agenda forward.
High Speed 2: The announcement of a design panel and the emphasis on city centre rather than parkway stations on greenfield sites for the HS2 line could result in far less damaging impacts on the landscape. We look forward to working with the Government as it develops its proposals.
Road building in the countryside: The focus on making better use of existing roads is good, but is at odds with current proposals for a major road building programme.
Impending road threats such as the Bexhill Hastings Link Road show that, even with careful consideration of the landscape, the impacts would be devastating if some schemes go ahead.
Rural road safety: The importance of this issue was identified, although we await more detail and no new funding is proposed at this stage.
The Government needs to lead by retrofitting safe paths along and across trunk roads. The prospect of more 40mph zones in national parks is welcome, but they need to be trialled in ordinary countryside too.
Access to and within the countryside: CPRE appreciated the Minister’s recognition that there is a need to provide both for those who don’t have a car but also those who simply don’t want to drive.
More funding and ambition is needed in terms of regular reliable bus services and reopened branch lines if this is to be realistic.
We are very grateful to the Secretary of State for addressing many of our key transport priorities and concerns.
We are particularly pleased to hear him speak about the importance of ensuring that transport policy does not damage rural beauty.
We look forward to working with the Department for Transport as it supports local communities in addressing the vital issues of clutter, road safety and better public transport.
Patrick McLoughlin spoke up for rural roads and motorists. We need better and safer roads, but we do not need the almost 800 miles of new roads now being considered by local and central government.
New roads have a severe impact on the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside, and we will fight hard to resist any new road building programme, but most importantly we want to work with the Secretary of State to come up with innovative and sustainable solutions for the transport needs of rural England.
Chief executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Lavington Street, London SE1 0NZ