A2H_gov_decision_12-07-01

Created; <2009, Changed; 07/05/2013, 16/12/2014

Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions

News


News Release 322:
12 July 2001

Decision on first Multi-Modal transport study announced

Government announces transport package for Hastings but rejects by-passes

The Government today announced decisions on the first of its Multi-Modal Studies examining some of the most severe transport problems around the country. The study looked at transport issues in Kent and the area around Hastings in South East England.

Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, said:

“The studies will drive major investment decisions over the period covered by our 10 Year Plan for Transport. This new approach to decision making is an important step forward. We will consider the contribution all types of transport can make to solving problems, not just roads.”

“Each study is addressing very different problems so the strategies and decisions which emerge will be unique. The impact on the environment must be a key consideration and in each case we will have to weigh up the benefits of a particular road, or rail link and balance it against the environmental impact. The conclusion will vary in each case. So, no individual decision will set a precedent for others to follow.”

“Ministers need not accept all recommendations from Regional Planning Bodies. There may be instances where strategies or individual projects raise issues of national importance. Where this is the case my priority will be to ensure that final decisions reflect, and are properly co-ordinated with, our wider national policy objectives.”

The Hastings Multi-Modal Study looked at the regeneration case for two new bypasses – the Western and Eastern Hastings bypasses.

John Spellar, Minister for Transport, today announced the decision to reject proposals for the two bypasses but announced a range of measures to tackle transport issues in the town.

He said:

“The study did not build a convincing regeneration case for the by-passes – it concluded that although the by-passes could possibly help to generate employment in the area this would not necessarily help those in most need. There would be reduced congestion in some areas of the town but the position would get worse in other areas. Against these rather weak arguments we had to place the evidently severe implications for the environment – two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a designated wildlife site surround Hastings.

“I have carefully considered the Study and concluded that whilst transport investment is important to the regeneration of Hastings I do not believe the two by-passes are the solution. I do favour tackling the bottleneck on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury through a road widening scheme and I believe improvements to rail and bus services will also help.

“These transport improvements need to be integrated within a wider regeneration strategy which the authorities are now working on.

“Go-Via have agreed to the electrification of the Ashford to Hastings rail route and to studying the scope for further improvements. As a result of this Study, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) have also agreed to look at improvements to the service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge and investigate what further measures are required on the route to provide faster, better quality of service.

“I have asked the SRA to work with the local councils to consider proposals for a new station at Glyne Gap and at proposals for Ore-Bexhill metro rail service.

“I am also inviting East Sussex County Council to come forward with well thought out proposals for improving bus services in Hastings to tackle regeneration. They are now reviewing their Local Transport Plan and I look forward to considering their proposals.”

He added:

“Regeneration is an important priority for the Government – some wards in Hastings suffer from some the most severe deprivation in England. It is important that we have a strategy to tackle this and we stand ready to help but we do not believe the by-passes are the solution.”

Notes to editors

1. Mr Byer’s letter to the Leader of the South East England Regional Assembly and the replies to the Parliamentary Questions are attached.

2. The Access to Hastings Multi-Modal Study is the first of a national programme of Multi-modal studies to report.

3. The consultants’ report is available at: http://www.sdgworld.net/AtoH
The report was considered on 14 February 2001 by the South East England Regional Assembly.


From the Secretary of State

Councillor David Shakespeare
South East of England Regional Assembly
Cross Lane
Guildford
GU1 1YA

Access to Hastings Multi-Modal Study

You wrote to John Prescott on 21 February setting out the recommendations of the South East England Regional Assembly following completion of the consultants’ report for the Access to Hastings Multi-Modal Study. My colleagues and I are most grateful to the Assembly for their careful consideration of this weighty report, and indeed to all those who contributed to that report, including the Steering Group, the Consultants and all those who gave their views in response to consultation.

I agree with the Assembly’s view that a substantial transport investment programme must be an essential component of a wider regeneration programme of the Hastings area. The consultants point to a large number of difficulties caused by the deficiencies of the current transport system in the area. These include unreliable journey times on the strategic road links between Hastings and the surrounding areas, poor rail services, infrequent and unreliable public transport services and a series of problems for walkers and cyclists. They also point to the fact that five wards in Hastings are categorised as being in the worst 10% of the 8414 wards covered by the National Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Multi-modal studies present a wholly new way of addressing such problems, and as required, the Consultants have presented integrated strategies which take into account the regional planning context and include a wide range of measures covering roads, rail, local public transport and supporting transport measures. Even so, the consultants have made the point that transport investment will not in itself be sufficient to achieve regeneration. I note that the Assembly also believes that a wider regeneration package must be devised by SEEDA and the local authorities. Although substantial public funds are already being channelled into regeneration of the area it is not easy at present to discern the overall strategy for prioritising measures and distributing funds, and I look forward to the Area Investment Framework now being prepared by the parties. This will need clearly to build on the Study by showing how planned transport investment contributes to the strategy and to the regeneration of the area. As you suggest, there will also need to be further urban capacity and design studies to ensure urban renaissance potentials are realised.

Turning to the specific recommendations in your advice, I agree that the Local Transport Plan should incorporate a series of measures for local public transport improvements, focussing particularly on improved bus services and a strengthened Quality Bus partnership. Local partners will need to give consideration to measures such as ticketing, marketing and a publicity strategy for public transport. I will give careful consideration to bids for supplementary funding for any schemes not already in East Sussex’s Local Transport Plan when the Annual Progress Report becomes available.

As you suggest, the feasibility of a number of measures within the proposed rail investment programme requires clarification, together with the funding implications. I have asked the SRA to work with the local authorities to consider further the proposals for the Bexhill Ore Metro, Glyne Gap Station and an enhanced local rail service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge. I have also asked those managing the South Coast Multi-Modal Study to ensure consideration of the proposal to construct the Polegate Chord.

Electrification of the Ashford to Hastings rail route will be undertaken as part of the renewed franchise arrangements for this route, and GO-Via have also agreed to study further measures to achieve a faster and better quality rail service. Subject to that study and progress with the CTRL it will be possible in due course to consider further improvements to assist rail travel between Hastings and London.

Turning to highway schemes, I accept your recommendation that the published A259 Pevensey to Bexhill scheme should be withdrawn but that safety on this section of route should continue to be monitored closely. I also agree that in place of the published six lane off line scheme on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury the Highways Agency should progress work on the feasibility of an on-line dual two scheme.

The consultants have highlighted the importance of the A21 in providing strategic access to Hastings but were not able to reach authoritative conclusions on the feasibility of further improvements between Pembury and Hastings. There are difficult issues here. On the one hand the consultants point out that major improvements to this section could attract new residents to the area and make the existing employment base in Hastings a little more secure. On the other hand, major improvement would be likely to be extremely expensive and would inevitably involve serious damage to the High Weald AONB. The consultants’ conclusions suggest that it is extremely unlikely a major scheme could be justified in these circumstances.

As you are aware, the A21 Lamberhurst Bypass is in the Targeted Programme of Improvements and is likely to start construction in 2002. A series of other improvements on the A21 may also be feasible, particularly to alleviate congestion, safety and accessibility problems in villages along the route, although we will still need to bear in mind the environmental sensitivity of the area in considering proposals. I have asked the Highways Agency to prepare a draft programme of work to identify possible measures and to discuss further with the Assembly and its key partners how best this may be taken forward. This further work will also need to be co-ordinated with the SRA-led work on enhanced rail service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge.

The consultants felt unable to make a recommendation on the case for the proposed A259 Western and Eastern bypasses, although they were able to conclude that it was not practical or desirable to construct the Western bypass in isolation. I have considered with great care the arguments in the consultants’ report, the Assembly’s views and the views of other parties which have been submitted to me.

The bypasses would release land for the proposed North Bexhill business park. However, the consultants draw attention to the risk that at least in the short term, investment on the edge of Bexhill could have adverse effects for those wards in central Hastings which currently experience the worst deprivation. I recognise the assurances which SEEDA has given of assistance in developing the business parks and your own concern that all possible support should be provided for the economic and social regeneration of the area.

Although the bypasses would offer the opportunity for environmental improvement within Hastings, the bypasses would themselves cut through areas of designated high environmental value. The Western bypass would proceed on the viaduct across the Combe Haven SSSI site, and a modified junction at the western end of the bypass would be within the Pevensey Levels SSSI and Ramsar site. The Eastern Bypass runs through the sensitive Brede Valley area within the High Weald AONB.

Both ‘A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England’ and the Ten Year Plan provide a strong presumption against harming sensitive sites including sites of special scientific interest, AONBs and habitats given international protection. The requirements of the Ramsar convention would only permit damage to the Pevensey levels site in the ‘urgent national interest’ and the Ramsar policy statement issued by DETR in November 2000 makes it clear that derogation of the urgent national interest can be used only where there are no alternatives and the benefits of the development demonstrably outweigh the acknowledged international status of the site.

In my view, the balance of the arguments presented in favour of the bypasses is not sufficient to outweigh these very strong environmental requirements. I believe, therefore, we must look for alternative means to prevent the further decline of the area and to optimise its economic potential.

In addition to the programme of transport investment outlined above, there are other avenues to be explored. Partnership between the responsible local bodies will be crucial and the Area Investment Framework will be the mechanism for drawing together a comprehensive strategy and driving it forward. In developing the Framework I hope the partners will bear in mind that the outstanding environment in the High Weald is one of the area’s potentially greatest assets, although the rural economy has encountered recent problems of decline. I hope that the partners will also consider opportunities for rural regeneration, and for improving the synergy between urban and rural environments to mutual benefit.

I am confident that my decisions will provide a sound foundation on which the economy of Hastings may be rebuilt. I look forward to working closely with the Assembly and other partners as we develop more detailed proposals.

Steven Byers


HOUSE OF COMMONS WRITTEN
PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION

For answer on: Thursday 12 July 2001

Date answered: Thursday 12 July 2001

Mr Brian Jenkins (Tamworth)

3  To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, if he will make a statement about the multi-modal study programme. [4026]

Mr Byers

The Multi-Modal Studies are looking at some of the most severe transport problems around the country. They are considering the contribution all modes of transport can make to solving these problems. They are also looking at the contribution existing, previously considered and new transport infrastructure can make. The key objective is to give decision makers the information needed to identify tailored, integrated and sustainable transport solutions. The studies will drive major investment decisions over the period covered by our 10 Year Plan for Transport.

The studies are founded on our New Approach To Appraisal, launched in 1998 in our Integrated Transport White Paper. They weigh strategies and their component projects according to their economic, environmental, safety, accessibility and integration impacts. This ensures that costs and benefits are fully explored and understood before decisions are taken. This new approach to decision making is an important step forward. We will consider the contribution all types of transport can make to solving problems, not just roads.

Each study is addressing very different problems so the strategies and the decisions that emerge will be unique. The impact on the environment must be a key consideration and in each case we will have to weigh up the benefits of a particular road or rail link and balance it against the environmental impact. The conclusion will vary in each case. No individual decision will set a precedent for others to follow.

Decisions will be taken through the new arrangements for the development of Regional Transport Strategies within Regional Planning Guidance. Ministers need not accept all recommendations from Regional Planning Bodies. There may be instances where strategies or individual projects raise issues of national importance. Where this is the case my priority will be to ensure that final decisions reflect, and are properly co-ordinated with, our wider national policy objectives.

HOUSE OF COMMONS WRITTEN
PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION

For answer on: Thursday 12 July 2001

Date answered: Thursday 12 July 2001

Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

2  To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, if he has considered the recommendations of the South East England Regional Assembly following completion of the Access to Hastings multi-modal study; and if he will make a statement. [4025]

Mr Spellar

The Secretary of State has today replied to the Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly, and I am placing a copy of his letter in the House of Commons Library.

Multi-modal studies represent a wholly new approach to the consideration of transport provision. The Access to Hastings Study is the first of these multi-modal studies to have been completed, and I am grateful to all who have contributed to it.

The study contains a large number of recommendations designed to relieve congestion and safety problems in Kent and East Sussex and to contribute to the regeneration of the economy in the area around Hastings and Bexhill. I have considered the study’s recommendations in light of the guidance for handling Multi-Modal Studies outlined in the Secretary of State’s Parliamentary answer of today. I am able to accept most of these recommendations, although in some areas further work is required to develop proposals before any funding commitments can be given.

The study has shown a wide measure of agreement that, in place of the proposed six lane off-line scheme on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury, the Highways Agency should consider the feasibility of a four lane on-line scheme. I have asked the Agency to progress that work. There is also broad consensus that the proposed A259 Pevensey to Bexhill scheme may now be dropped, given the safety improvements which have now been put in place. I have asked the Highways Agency to continue to monitor safety on this stretch of road.

I have also asked the Agency to prepare a draft programme of work to identify possible further measures on the A21 South of Pembury. I have stressed, however, that this work will need to bear in mind the environmental sensitivity of the area.

The study has demonstrated the potential merits of public transport investment in bus and rail. GoVia has agreed to the electrification of the Ashford to Hastings rail route and to looking at the scope for further improvements. As a result of this Study, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) have also agreed to look at improvements to the service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge and investigate what further measures are required on the route to provide faster, better quality of service. I have asked the SRA to work with the local councils to consider proposals for a new station at Glyne Gap and proposals for Ore-Bexhill metro rail service.

I am also inviting East Sussex County Council to come forward with well thought out proposals for improving bus services in Hastings to tackle regeneration. They are now reviewing their Local Transport Plan and I look forward to considering their proposals.

Although I recognise the strong views held by the Regional Assembly and others in favour of the proposed A259 Western and Eastern bypasses, I have decided not to proceed with these schemes. The study did not build a convincing regeneration case for the by-passes – it concluded that although the by-passes could possibly help to generate employment in the area this would not necessarily help those in most need. There would be reduced congestion in some areas of the town but the position would get worse in other areas. Against these rather weak arguments we had to place the evidently severe implications for the environment – two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and an internationally recognised wetland surround Hastings.

I believe, therefore, we must look for alternative means to prevent the further decline of the area and to optimise its economic potential. Regeneration is an important priority for the Government – some wards in Hastings suffer from some the most severe deprivation in England. But we do not believe the by-passes are the solution. A regeneration strategy for Hastings needs to be developed which shows clearly how transport and other measures may be implemented to ensure a sustainable economic future of the area. I have asked my officials to work closely with the South East England Development Agency and local partners on that.


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Published 12 July 2001


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