Orders of the Day — Rillington Bypass

– in the House of Commons at 5:04 am on 24th March 1987.

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Photo of Mrs Elizabeth Shields Mrs Elizabeth Shields , Ryedale 5:04 am, 24th March 1987

The subject of my Adjournment debate is not particularly contentious, but it is important to many of my constituents.

The need for a bypass round the village of Rillington has been growing for a long time. The idea was first floated in the early 1970s when Rillington was part of the constituency of Howden. Local people became very much aware of the increasing amount of traffic passing along the A64, which goes right through the village. I understand that the national trunk road programme is being reviewed. This, therefore, seems to be a good opportunity to bring the subject of a bypass round Rillington to the notice of both the Minister and those who are involved in the decision-making process.

As far back as February 1973 a resident wrote to the then hon. Member for Howden now the hon. Member for Boothberry—about the possibility of a bypass. At that time the Rillington and Norton areas formed the northern section of the Howden constituency. Subsequently they became part of the Ryedale constituency. However, the hon. Member for Boothberry (Sir P. Bryan), replied to my constituent as follows: I do agree with you that with the coming of bypasses for Tadcaster, York and Malton this road"— that is the A64— will be increasingly used, and I think the time has come to put pressure on the authorities for a bypass for Rillington. I echo the hon. Gentleman's words. After a lapse of 14 years I certainly wish to support the pleas of the people of Rillington.

The major problem facing the village— a large one that could be regarded as the key village in the district of Ryedale because it is still expanding on both sides of the trunk road—is that there is an ever-increasing volume of traffic, much of it heavy lorries, passing through to York and west Yorkshire in one direction and to the east coast in the other direction.

The general needs for a bypass arise from this factor. They are common to all places that seek a bypass. They are noise, the hazard to pedestrians—both young and old— and the damage done to property that was not built to withstand 20th century vibrations and exhaust emissions.

The provision of traffic lights in 1982 at a very busy crossroads provided some kind of cosmetic surgery and certainly enabled residents to cross the road to the various major buildings and establishments in the village—the parish church, the local inn and the village hall—in far greater safety. It is quite a busy village street. A few yards further away are two village stores, one of which is much frequented since it also houses the local post office. Beyond them, some 100 yards down the road, is Rillington village school.

Along the main part of the trunk road there are business premises, a variety of shops, a cafe and a doctor's surgery, all of which can be a potential hazard to the free flow of traffic on what is undoubtedly a busy and much used main road. Since the A64 virtually divides the village in half, the dangers to the local population are on the increase.

An important factor that should not be forgotten when looking at the dangers caused by the existing road is the blind S-bend just beyond the crossroads to the north of the village. In the 1960s three teenagers were killed here when an articulated lorry jack-knifed in the path of oncoming holiday traffic. There have been numerous other accidents on this bad bend. A man who had been pursued all the way from Leeds by the police crashed on this part of the road. Three years ago, in the early hours of the morning, one of the many articulated lorries that was passing through the village lost control on the bend and shed its load in the car park of the Coach and Horses inn, demolishing a brick built bottle store. It could easily have smashed into the public house.

Along the length of the village there are six side roads which join the main trunk road, plus eight gateways, 65 private drives to residents' homes and three garages. In addition, four bus stops are located in one direction and three in the other. All these are essential to the village, but each in its own different way adds to the congestion on the through road. One local councillor believes that if the life of the village is to be preserved the through traffic needs to be taken out of the village.

There is a further point. The neighbouring village of Scagglethorpe has been provided with a bypass in the last six months—to the great advantage of its community— because local people realised that the bends in the road at Scagglethorpe would cause danger to fast moving traffic leaving the new bypass at Malton. Local pressure helped to bring about the improvement to this part of the A64.

Local viewpoints should be a consideration in the case of Rillington, too. It is interesting to note that the Malton bypass, which was opened in 1978 and which brings traffic on to the Rillington section of the A64, has recently had to have major repairs done to it. On account of the amount of traffic, the road—which was planned to have a lifetime of some 20 years—has already shown signs of deterioration. It cost nearly £2 million to repair that road. The volume and size of the vehicles on the road had been seriously under-estimated by the authorities when they planned the bypass. It is estimated that at peak times some 8,000 vehicles make their way to the east coast daily, and the road has proved to be quite unable to take the strain of such heavy use.

All of those vehicles going to the coast must pass through Rillington. The village is now the sole major conurbation through which the trunk road passes before reaching the outskirts of Scarborough. Furthermore, one can travel from York or Pickering without encountering any speed restrictions until one comes into Rillington. In spite of the traffic lights, some vehicles still traverse the village in excess of the speed limit of 40 mph.

One of the excuses in the past for the non-provision of a bypass has been lack of funding. However, such strictures have not applied equally in all places. Last summer, for example, a bypass on the A64 further down the road at Seamer was approved and a start was made on the preliminary work. One might therefore naturally suppose that the problems that were suffered by Seamer were greater than those suffered by Rillington. However, that is not the case because, while all the traffic bound for the coast must pass through Rillington, it does not have to go through Seamer. Before reaching Seamer the A64 divides at the Staxton roundabout and the traffic either turns towards Seamer and Scarborough or southwards towards Filey and Bridlington. These latter towns and areas include various tourist attractions such as caravan and camp sites, and therefore take a great deal of the traffic flow. If Seamer, which sees substantially fewer vehicles going through its streets, can be awarded a bypass, it seems that Rillington, which has carried traffic north and south of the Staxton bypass, should certainly be regarded on equal terms.

I appreciate that exact comparisons of towns are not always easy to make, but it seems a little odd that a case can be made for Seamer but not for Rillington, which obviously endures a much heavier traffic flow.

While the detailed siting of the bypass is not for consideration here, in the view of the local parish council it would best be laid to the south of the A64. Care would need to be taken with the area, including a deer park, which was laid out by the renowned Capability Brown. An ancient monument—perhaps the site of a former village—need not be interfered with and since much, though not all, of the land is poor, sandy soil the use of agricultural land would not be excessive. Compensation would be necessary for local farmers on whose land the bypass would be constructed.

The parish council took a unanimous decision to support the provision of a bypass and the majority of the residents of Rillington would be happy to see it built. A report in the local newspaper at the end of November expressed concern about traders and shops in the village. This point ought naturally to be considered, but there is an interesting corollary. In some places where a village or town has been provided with a bypass the local environment, freed from the constant flow of traffic thundering by, has been enhanced and shopping has been made easier and much more pleasurable. I see no reason why this should not apply to our very pleasant village of Rillington.

Last week I asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he had any plans for the establishment of a bypass around our North Yorkshire village of Rillington. His reply, though brief, was encouraging and I shall quote it. He said: A review of the road programme is under way. The results will be published in the spring. I cannot comment before then."—[Official Report, 20 March 1987; Vol. 112, c. 636.] I know and the Minister knows that the vernal equinox is past. Whatever the weather may be like, spring has officially begun. Therefore, on behalf of the people of Rillington I await the Minister's reply with interest and hopeful anticipation.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 5:17 am, 24th March 1987

I am delighted to be here. Actually, I am not, but I shall say that I am delighted to be here to answer the hon. Lady the Member for Ryedale (Mrs. Shields) at this hour of the morning.

I answered the hon. Lady's question on Friday. Rillington parish council wrote to the Department in February and I think we responded to that letter and gave roughly the same answer, perhaps slightly expanded, as the answer that we gave the hon. Lady. We noted the parish council's views and the hon. Lady's views.

If I may say so gently, what the hon. Lady has said to the House might just as easily have been given straight to her local newspaper. She knows that we have to announce the roads review in one go and it would be wrong to suggest that each possible scheme for inclusion in that review could be given either in an Adjournment debate or in a Consolidated Fund debate. If that were the case, it would probably be one scheme a week for the two years between announcements of reviews.

The hon. Lady has taken us down part of the A64 in a sort of MP's motoring tour or a pedestrian MP's walk through the post offices. Clearly, the hon. Lady made valuable points about the benefits of bypasses. She paid generous tribute to her predecessor for part of her constituency before reorganisation.

I know that my hon. Friend who is now the Member for Boothferry (Sir P. Bryan) was involved in Rillington and talked to me about it on previous occasions. He also talked about his work in Malton and about some of the other bypasses. I must confess to a family link, because for many years one of my cousins was the Member of Parliament for Thirsk and Malton and ended up as Father of the House.

The hon. Lady will understand if I do not give any more detailed information about the road prospects of Rillington. She knows that we are considering them. I shall now speak more generally.

Earlier today— if that is the right parliamentary expression for something that happened nearly 24 hours ago—I went up past Yorkshire to Durham and opened a small industrial access road at Aycliffe. It is a road that involved small-scale spending. It is not a trunk road and was built using taxpayers' money, county council money and help from the development corporation. It will take through traffic away from residential areas. In essence, that is what bypasses are about.

I went on through various villages where through traffic was travelling too fast and saw the excellent work carried out by the surveyor and his staff in Durham. I am sure the same thing applies in Yorkshire. By going in for low-cost engineering, the county surveyor has been able to reduce traffic speeds without having to rely on police officers waiting behind every lamp post.

The self-enforcing measures of traffic engineering make a great difference to the number of casualties on our roads. I will not describe as accidents all the injuries and deaths on the roads, because many of them are predictable. The hon. Lady referred to the tragedy of a jack-knifed lorry and also to a person who was trying to get away from the police. There is an obligation to pay as much attention to low-cost engineering, including small scale bypasses, where the elderly and children are moving across residential or through roads, whether in a community of 800 people or in the inner cities where tens of thousands are going about the streets.

On my tour I went on to Bishop Auckland. By taking the through traffic out of the main traffic area there, the shopping facilities regenerated. The hon. Lady referred to some fears in Rillington about what might happen if a bypass comes. I can confirm that most people find overall benefit by having the through traffic out.

I then went on to Durham itself, where people still regale visitors with stories of the policeman sitting in his box below the cathedral and getting traffic from Silver street around the corner. In Durham they had a special hand signal—I do not know how this will go down in the Official Report—which meant, "I intend to go around you, Mr. Policeman, and go up the road just to your right or left," depending on the way you looked at it. All these things that I have seen in Durham and in most counties do lead to reductions in casualties and to a greater chance of economic prosperity.

I want to say something— without being unnecessarily partisan—about why some bypasses have not been brought forward as fast as others. The hon. Lady rightly referred to a shortage of money. In the period 1974 to 1979, national money for new roads was cut exactly in half in real terms. That was not a period when the Labour party ruled by itself; it was also the time of the understanding with the Liberal party. Since 1979 it has been possible to add funds to national road spending— from which funds for a Rillington bypass would come, if it is added to the national roads programme.

It is always possible for some Opposition Members to say— I acknowledge that the hon. Lady does not say this— that they believe in infrastructure spending. The plain truth is that the infrastructure spending— the Prime Minister and I call that roads and bridges—has increased under this Government and had decreased under the previous Government. Many bypasses which had been in the programme, and on which very little work had been done up to 1979. were shelved because there was too much work to be done and not enough money. Since then we have managed to pull hack most of the shelved schemes, and that has been greatly appreciated by many communities.

The hon. Lady raised the importance of environmental relief that can be given by a bypass in Rillington. Some people say that no more roads should be built and that people should move to the trains. This is undemocratic and an example of losing sight of equality of opportunity. Most people driving in cars, especially in the cities, are male and white. Many people become so well-off that they can afford to give up their cars, especially if they can live within walking distance of a station.

But many other people, such as the low-paid— of whom there are many in the hon. Lady's constituency— women and members of minority groups in the inner cities, need or wish to have a car. Of the more than 3 million learner drivers in this country, 2 million are women, and many of them want to have cars and to be able to drive around.

It was well said by a woman at the Friends of the Earth meeting that I went to on Thursday that it is all very well for a well-off dependant-free male to say that cars are not necessary, but he should try being the parent of five children, having a job, doing the shopping, looking after elderly parents, and trying to be in three places at the same time. It is often convenient, in such circumstances, to be able to travel around by car, although, no matter how much one needs to be in two places at the same time, obeying the speed limit is important. I think that the hon. Lady will agree that, although one does not want to take everybody off public transport and put them unnecessarily into individual cars, one wants to make provision so that more people can have the individual mobility that a car can give.

I have talked around the important subject that the hon. Lady has raised in a way that brings in all the i important issues. The north-east can get economic benefits from a better road system. In Yorkshire, and especially in Durham, the major road system is substantially better than in other parts of the country. That is a reflection of the Hailsham initiative of 25 years ago. There are still improvements to be made, and the hon. Lady drew attention to one bypass.

Economic prosperity and employment opportunities come from better communications. That does not only mean roads. As I was saying to a number of councillors today, the Channel tunnel will help more goods to be moved on the railways. It is commonly estimated that in normal terms, a freight journey of 250 miles or more is better suited to the railways than to the roads. With through rail links to the rest of the European Community, especially to the parts that lead on to the south coast of England, fewer unnecessary heavy goods may pass on our roads, with or without bypasses, and that will be generally welcome.

The second reason is the environmental improvement. The environment does not just mean protecting the countryside, although that is important. Nobody wants to cover the whole of the countryside with concrete or tarmacadam unnecessarily. There is the importance of restoring the environment in the built-up areas, whether villages such as Rillington or the thousands of households living on some of the established through routes in London and other large cities and towns.

There is also casualty reduction. As the hon. Lady will no doubt agree, a road that is purpose-built for the levels of traffic that we are experiencing, and those that we need to anticipate, can reduce road casualties dramatically. Low-cost engineering is important, and I announced a new London Transport traffic advisory leaflet earlier today giving examples of how traffic can be throttled back or kept out of residential areas. Bypasses do the same thing. Adding to our motorway network in a reasonable way between our towns and cities also helps, as does getting rid of unnecessary access to major trunk roads. Having the money to go for grade separated junctions rather than having crossroads on the main roads also helps.

Our stewardship of the country's transport interests has been pretty good. I would not claim that it is perfect, but we try to balance the priorities. When we announce the review of the roads programme, people will come to see, give or take a bit of partisanship, the benefits for local communities. There are natural consequences of our single-Member constituency system. I have no doubt that the hon. Lady would be arguing for Rillington just as much as one Member would in a multi-Member constituency, but there are advantages in having every village, every street and every block of flats represented by a Member of Parliament. Without that, the community might be looking to see who will take up the issue of the bypass.

As well as the roads and railways, it is worth saying that our public transport arrangements seem to be working. pretty well. The last time that I spent more than about an hour in the hon. Lady's constituency was during the by-election campaign, when we heard about how the buses would disappear under deregulations. I am glad that she was able to share champagne in opening one of the new services. Like her, I look forward to seeing whether Rillington joins the roads review programme. I know that the hon. Lady will forgive me for not adding to the comprehensive answer that I gave her last Friday.