Roads programme to be speeded up: MacGregor dismisses protest campaigns and seeks to cut times for major project approval by five years

JOHN MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, signalled yesterday that he was prepared to ignore mounting opposition to the Government's roads programme by announcing plans to speed up the system.

Mr MacGregor said he wanted the average time between the initial announcement of a road scheme to its completion cut from 13 years to 10 and, later, 8.

The publication of the package of measures coincided with the release of the six Twyford Down anti-roads protesters jailed for contempt of court two weeks ago and the publication of a report by the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Countryside Commission which said the 'tranquillity of the rural south-east (had been) shattered by growth in development, roads and traffic'.

Mr MacGregor also announced the creation on 1 April next year of a new highways agency to take over responsibility for undertaking and maintaining new trunk roads and motorways. It will have a staff of 2,000.

The package was met with some scepticism by the pro-roads lobby, which doubted the Department of Transport's ability to pay for a speeded-up programme as pounds 1.4bn is already spent each year on new roads. Edmund King, campaigns manager of the RAC, said: 'If they want to build roads more quickly, it will take more money. I doubt that the Treasury will be able to deliver.'

Indeed, Mr MacGregor appeared to confirm this when, at a press conference, he said: 'I do not expect to be able to increase the (road building) programme in any substantial way.' Although accepting that the bulk of the programme went on construction costs, he argued that there would be savings in the planning stages.

Ministers hope that the Highways Agency will be more efficient than the Department of Transport. Mr MacGregor also revealed that the present programme of 500 schemes would be reviewed to give priorities as currently 'equal diligence' is shown with all projects.

Mr MacGregor dismissed the growing protest movement against the road-building programme which has recently won a series of victories at Oxleas Wood, Hereford, and Hindhead Common.

He said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that '99 per cent of the population actually want a bypass if their village or town needs by-passing. They want improved roads because more and more people are using them.' Other improvements would be brought about by helping public inquiry inspectors speed up production of their reports and the elimination of 'bureaucratic and time wasting procedures'. He emphasised however, that there would be no reduction in opportunities for the public to comment.

The CPRE and Countryside Commission report said 'undisturbed countryside in the South-east was disappearing' so fast that within 10 years it would be gone. 'The most obvious change in the last 30 years comes from increased noise from roads. In some areas it is . . . difficult to escape from road noise.'

Leading article, page 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine