Anti-roads lobby hails rejection of new routes

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Green campaigners hailed a change in the Government's transport policy yesterday as it rejected a series of controversial road-building schemes on environmental grounds.

Green campaigners hailed a change in the Government's transport policy yesterday as it rejected a series of controversial road-building schemes on environmental grounds.

The Department of Transport announced it was giving the go-ahead to just 15 of the 44 major road projects submitted by English councils.

It blocked two new proposed routes through the Wiltshire countryside, one near Salisbury and the other around Westbury. Critics claimed they were an attempt to develop a main highway linking the M4 to Southampton. Plans were also rejected for a short-cut in Somerset between the M4 and M5, new routes through East Durham and around Middlesbrough, a ring-road at Stourbridge, West Midlands, and a bypass at Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Transport groups said the package showed a shift against road-building in government.

Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, said a lower proportion of road schemes had been approved this year. "The Government has listened to our concerns," he said.

Tony Bosworth, transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "We're delighted the Government has rejected the schemes in Wiltshire. They seem to be looking more rigorously at proposals."

David Young, a transport campaigner for the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said: "We are pleased they have rejected or deferred half of them, but several damaging schemes are set to go ahead."

Plans for a £17.1m bypass in Barnsley, a £15.2m A228 relief road in Kent and £37m of improvements to the M4 near Reading were approved.

They were among 23 large-scale transport projects and thousands of small schemes in a £1.5bn package announced yesterday by John Spellar, the minister for Transport.

In addition to £555m for road improvements and bridge strengthening, local authorities will receive £620m for smaller schemes for buses, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr Spellar approved 110 schemes to speed the movement of buses, 1,700 local road safety schemes, up to 50 new or extended park-and-ride sites, some 600 extra miles of cycle routes, 100 miles of new footpaths and 2,400 new or improved road crossings.

Larger schemes include a £17.9m revamp of Barnsley bus station, a £20.9m plan to develop bus lanes into Leeds and an £8.9m park-and-ride facility to reduce congestion in Durham.

"The Government is listening to motorists and road users and is committed to getting our roads moving again," Mr Spellar said.

"It also reaffirms our commitment to improving public transport, improving our local environment and delivering a better quality of life for our local communities."

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