LETTER: What price noise and air pollution?

From Ms Lilli Matson

Sir: Reports of the Department of Transport's efforts to put a precise price on environmental issues as diverse as noise, air pollution and landscape degradation ("Minister aims to put a price on tranquillity", 14 November) give a depressing indication of how it may intend to take forward its Great Transport Debate.

For too long the Department of Transport has made cost-benefit analysis the central pillar of its decision-making. Simply broadening the scope of this methodology, in a vain effort to address a wider set of environmental issues, will do little to calm public concern that the decisions produced are the "right" ones. Attempts to put a price on tranquillity or the beauty of a landscape have rightly been discredited in the past. With the best will in the world, they can never express the true value of these assets.

The DoT should abandon this wild goose chase and look instead for new ways of informing its decisions. These should rely more on involving communities in transport planning and assessing the environmental impacts of different transport options - cost- benefit analysis should then form just one part of the process.

Yours sincerely,

Lilli Matson

Transport and Energy


Council for the Protection

of Rural England

London, SW1

15 November