A5 Upgrade

Part of Palestinian Children and Israeli Military Detention – in Westminster Hall at 5:16 pm on 7th February 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire 5:16 pm, 7th February 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate my hon. Friend David Tredinnick on securing this important debate and on the versatility he showed in starting with a history lesson and ending with modern slang. In between, he put together a powerful case. I echo the comments of colleagues, which I completely agreed with. A strong business case has been put forward today as to why the development is needed as soon as possible.

The A5 is a key route in the heart of the country. We have an ambition as a Government to push forward the midland engine, so the route is going to become even more important. From my perspective, it is important to North Warwickshire. We have a central location right off junction 10 of the M42. We attract many types of business because of our location. Ocado, Aldi, TNT, 3M, UPS and Euro Car Parts all have significant bases along the A5 in my constituency. The borough has a proud record of creating jobs. We have an incredible record: my constituency provides 1.22 jobs for every working age person. Some 18,386 people from across the west midlands come into North Warwickshire every single day to work.

As my hon. Friend Alberto Costa just mentioned, this debate is not just about North Warwickshire, but about the wider west midlands infrastructure. The current situation is that this stretch of road is not fit for purpose. Were Members to go on the road at this time of day—my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey made this point, but it has been echoed by all colleagues—or in the morning, we would see complete congestion in such areas as Dordon, Grendon and Atherstone. That frustrates local residents and puts off future investment by companies. If there is an accident on one of the roads that the A5 connects to, such as the M42, the M1 or the M69, we have complete gridlock. As I have said, there is a strong business case and need for this. If we are to unlock the potential of the area, it is important that we take urgent action.

I would like to raise three specific points with the Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth mentioned that I have already put them to the Secretary of State. I brought members of North Warwickshire Borough Council along to the meeting, and the Secretary of State was very understanding. He knows the area well, particularly in relation to the first point that I will raise, but obviously I would like to hear the Minister’s view.

The first point is about the impact of HS2 on the area. I will not dwell on this too much, but anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear me say that I am not a huge fan of the project and it is not something that I particularly support. It is worth reiterating that we are the most affected area outside London. We will get 31 miles of track, with disruption to the area potentially lasting for about 17 years. Critically, HS2 will run straight through junction 10, where the M42 meets the A5, so we will see further upheaval on an already busy junction.

HS2 provides a threat and an opportunity. The threat is quite clear: huge disruption to a key area of road, which is the gateway to not only the north Warwickshire borough, but large parts of the country. If there is no access through that area, traffic will be displaced on to other routes. The opportunity is to make substantial improvements that would not only mitigate some of the disruption that people will face over that long period as a result of HS2, but create a more freely moving road network, which will bring benefits and, as has been said, investment to the local area. From the discussions I have had, I think that the solution is to create a partnership with HS2, Highways England and Warwickshire County Council, which is the local highways authority. There is precedent for that being done along phase 1 of the route, where those partnerships have worked well. I do not support the development of HS2, but if it is to go ahead, it is important that the traffic offering to local residents is enhanced. This would seem the perfect opportunity to do that.

My second point, which has also been made by colleagues, is about local development in the area. North Warwickshire Borough Council is having to revise its housing figures from 3,150 to 9,070, and 42% of that is to accommodate the Greater Birmingham housing area. The challenge is that more than two thirds of the borough is green belt, so we can develop only in limited areas, the majority of which are along the A5 corridor, which, as I have said, is already at tipping point. There are significant areas of single carriageway, and there has been a lack of thought among previous councils when approving commercial developments, in that they did not upgrade the local infrastructure to accommodate for them.

Without significant improvements, it will clearly not be feasible to deliver the housing. However, the other side of the coin is that if we get it right, there is the potential not only to alleviate the current issues and provide new housing opportunities, but to unlock ambitious employment opportunities across North Warwickshire. Warwickshire County Council’s transport assessment backs that up, highlighting the importance of the A5 growth corridor. I have supported its bid to the housing infrastructure fund, but I cannot stress enough that, without the right infrastructure, housing simply will not be delivered in North Warwickshire.

The third point might seem small, but I urge the Minister to visit and judge for himself the rather interesting Mancetter island. It is right in the heart of the A5 and has really odd rights of way. Residents in a number of properties that front on to it have to reverse either on or off their drives to gain access to moving lanes of traffic that do not have to give way as they come down the A5. It is difficult to explain, but I urge the Minister to look at it.

There is danger to both residents and people using that route on a daily basis. There have been some really significant accidents, in particular involving HGVs, because of its logistic nature, and the fact that there is an adverse camber on the road. A number of constituents have had their garden walls demolished as a result. Residents fear that it is only a matter of time before we have a fatality and somebody walking down gets hit. The issue has been raised with Highways England, which has agreed to look at it. Residents have every right to be worried about the issue, which is regularly raised with me. Without amendment to that part of the road, it is unlikely that we will be able to make the most of this important road network.

To sum up, my view, and I think that of colleagues, is that the A5 is currently underperforming, but offers huge opportunities for the area, the west midlands, and potentially the country as a whole. If the ambitions of our local MPs, councils, the action groups that we talked about earlier, and the resident groups are matched by those of the Government, the possibility of a substantial solution, which would greatly benefit the lives of my constituents and people living in communities along the A5, can become a reality. This is about not only the future of the A5, but how we improve the present. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend Mr Jones, particularly in what he asked of the Minister. Clearly action is needed as an urgent priority. I look forward to the Minister’s response.