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DECISION ON FIRST MULTI-MODAL TRANSPORT STUDY ANNOUNCED

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Government announces transport package for Hastings but rejects ...
Government announces transport package for Hastings but rejects
by-passes
The Government has 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 yesterday:
'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) has 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.'
NOTE
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 website.
The report was considered on 14 February 2001 by the South East
England regional assembly.
Councillor David Shakespeare
South East of England Regional
Assembly
Cross Lane
Guildford
GU1 1YA
FROM THE SECRETARY OF STATE
DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE REGIONS
ELAND HOUSE
BRESSENDEN PLACE
LONDON SW1E 5DU
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.

STEPHEN 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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