Roads, Cleveland

– in the House of Commons am 12:00 am ar 21 Ebrill 1964.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]

11.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Proudfoot Mr George Proudfoot , Cleveland

want this evening to refer to the roads in my constituency. I must say, first, what a desirable area Cleveland is, and try to give my hon. Friend a physical impression of the area, as I do not believe that he has visited it. The River Tees must be the key point of the description, and south of the Tees is a huge plain which is proving to be one of the country's natural economic growth points. Industrial growth there over the last 10 years or so has been quite incredible, and the amounts of capital spent for productive industry at Wilton, I.C.I., and at Dorman Long, at Lackenby, at the new Teesport, which is the only new dock built since the war, and the proposed new Shell oil refinery, prove that contention.

My next contention is that behind this industrial plain is the row of hills which are the Cleveland foothills. Beyond this is a valley and a second row of hills, the Cleveland hills proper, which run down to the coast and are the highest cliffs on the East Coast. This gives an area enormously expansive, flat and ready for industry with the deepening of the river which is to come and the new' dock and facilities there. If one looks at the area and sees this plain and with what I like to call the living area behind, which borders upon a National Park, this is a delightful area in which to live.

The roads which I want to mention specifically run from east to west in the area—in effect, from Loftus through to Middlesbrough. This series of roads parallels the River Tees and the coast, which leans from east to west. The A.174, which enters my constituency at Staithes, is good at that point and has been put in excellent order by the county council since the closure of the railway from Whitby up to Loftus.

Once the road gets to Loftus—at Easington—it leaves a lot to be desired. The road through Loftus is narrow and twisting and there are some rather ugly patches where accidents can occur. One goes on then to Skinningrove I am delighted to say that, again, the county council and the Minister have been able to make an excellent job of an enormous dip in the terrain, probably 200 or 300 ft. in depth, and the road there is excellent. It is spoilt, however, by the fact that there is a disused railway bridge over the road at Carlin How.

The road carries on through Carlin How in an unfortunate series of bends. Through Lax Terrace, in particular, it is really bad. It then climbs a long and difficult bank, on which it is awkward for anybody to overtake. It then comes to a really bad corner, Chemist Corner, about which many of my constituents have written, where it joins the A.173 in Brotton.

Why it is important that the road should be improved is that the Skinningrove steelworks are situated at the top of Carlin How and on this road. In 1951,less than 20 per cent. of the finished steel production went out from this steelworks by road. Last year, however, the proportion going by road was over 50 per cent. It is interesting to note that the National Coal Board demands that its steel goes out by road from this steelworks to the site at which it is used. In the Hall Committee, representatives of the Minister's Department considered the future of the steel industry and transport. That Committee believed that in the next 20 years there would be an increase of between 100 and 128 per cent. in the quantity of steel products carried by road from the steel industry. This is important when we consider the A.174, which joins the A.173 at Brotton.

The road then carries on through a series of curves and dips in the land and reaches Skelton, where the road becomes really bad. It goes into a bad dip immediately outside Skelton. After that, it goes through a right-angle bend in green flat fields which it would appear to be a very cheap job to straighten. It then goes to a place known locally as Skelton Ellers, one of the most terrible parts of road that anybody could negotiate.

It then goes on to a corner called Cemetery Corner, outside Guisborough, where the accident record is extremely bad. It then carries on to Middlesbrough, to the bottom of Ormesby Bank, where afterwards the road is good. The A.171, this road, which is extremely heavily trafficked, has a series of swoops and curves. Only a short time ago, two civil servants of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government were killed in an accident on that road when on their way from the area office.

The next road to which I should like to draw attention is one which carries incredibly heavy traffic. It is the B.1269 from Guisborough to Redcar. The volume of traffic there has been created by the expansion of the I.C.I. works. Guisborough in the last few years has grown by 48 per cent. The road is narrow and has bad cambers. Cemetery Corner is one of its bad features. The next bad spot is a dip combined with a bend at a place called Thocketts Farm. There is a further dip near Dunsdale. Somebody went straight off the road there a couple of years ago for no apparent reason and was killed. There is a bad camber and a dip at Dunsdale. The road at Yearby Bank Top as it swoops into the plain is extremely narrow and difficult for traffic. At the bottom of the dip, at Yearby village, there have been a number of extremely bad accidents in the last few years.

On the question of the Skelton to Marske road, I must offer praise both to the county council and the Ministry, because here work is being done on the B.1627, but only half of the project. I look forward to the second half being done. Then Skelton will grow. This should join the A.714 just outside Marske and it is unfortunate that the road goes through a village which has grown 46 per cent. and has a thriving shopping centre in an extremely narrow road. If a short length of by-pass were built on the landward side of the railway heavy through traffic would be eliminated completely. There are corners of the A.174 in flat, green fields. It is incredible but these roads appear to be straight out of the horse and cart age. I should like to thank the Minister and the Government for the attention which is given in the Hailsham Report to the South Tees-side parkway and the A.19. These are economically vital to the area and I sincerely hope that rapid progress will be made on the joining of Teesport with the South Tees-side parkway and then the A.19.

The town of Southbank is spread out in American gridiron fashion. The streets are narrow. Heavy lorries trundle down them very frequently. I hate to negotiate the roads on foot. It is a horrific sight on the Friday market days and I shall never know why there are not many more accidents there. I would ask the Minister to urge the road authorities there to consider a one-way system and even play streets in the roads which could be blocked off. I am confident that that would be to the advantage of the citizens there.

The A.1085 which, strangley enough, is called a trunk road though, though there is not one trunk road in the whole of my Division, has extremely bad parts in Grangetown. A great deal of attention has been given to it by the local council and I am delighted to say that this has produced good results. Apart from the big-dipper roads in my division—for this is what they look like—there is also the problem of a number of disused bridges. The division has a good name for bridges, We have popped one. across the Firth of Forth and we are placing one across the Severn—

Photo of Mr Anthony Bourne-Arton Mr Anthony Bourne-Arton , Darlington

With a good deal of assistance, I may say, from my constituents, the Cleveland Bridge Company of Darlington.

Photo of Mr George Proudfoot Mr George Proudfoot , Cleveland

We make the steel in Cleveland and allow the Cleveland Bridge Company to help.

I ask the Minister to have a "bridge week" in my division and I say that I will go along with a hammer to help him wreck the disused ones. First. there is the one at Carlin How propped up with wood. Then on the road from Lingdale no Skelton there are two bridges within the length of this Chamber. One is the weirdest one I have ever seen. There is one bridge on top of another. The bottom one is buckled up because of subsidence in the area, and the second is propped up with wood on top of the buckled one. That bridge is low unused. Fifty yards along the road is the second bridge, again unused.

The fourth bridge, this time over the railway, to which I want my hon. Friend to pay attention, is the one outside Guisborough on the A.171. It is near a village called Charltons, and is approached from Guisborough by a right-hand bend. If a stranger was going too fast on the road he could go straight through the parapet and down 40 feet on to the now disused railway line below. I urge the Minister to have a "bridge week" in my division. I am sure that it would pay off in efficiency and safety.

The holiday traffic which goes on the A.171 ultimately to Whitby and Scarborough, in view of the economic growth which is obviously bound to come, requires some attention. The whole theme of the argument is that people should be in living areas—I prefer that term to dormitory areas—in the pleasant hills of Cleveland. They are near the coast, and they are near the National Parks. I believe that today distances should be measured not by miles but by driving time. The driving time and the safety of my constituents can be enhanced greatly and, I believe, at very small expenditure if these bends and bridges and dips can be eliminated and give easy access to industrial Tees-side.

12.2 a.m.

Photo of Hon. Thomas Galbraith Hon. Thomas Galbraith , Glasgow Hillhead

I always find it rather difficult when replying to Adjournment debates of this sort, because so passionate is each hon. Member's interest in his own area that he is able to convince himself that it is being treated as a kind of Cinderella and is not getting its due. This, I think, is almost inevitable because hon. Members, naturally, see only the blemishes in their own area. They do not have the overall information which is at the Government's disposal, which might make the picture seem quite different from what it appears to the hon. Member concerned.

To a certain extent, after listening to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot), I think that this applies to the area which we are considering tonight, because Cleveland is certainly not a Cinderella. The Government fully recognise the importance of good roads to the industrial development of Tees-side, including the industrial part of Cleveland. That is why the special £50 million additional roads programme for the North-East, announced in the White Paper on the development and growth of this region in November last year, included a number of important schemes for the improvement of road communications to the Tees-side area.

Examples of these are the improvement of the link between Darlington and Tees-side, which is most important for the trade of the area; the present A.19 north-south route through Stockton is to be replaced by a new route probably crossing the Tees between Stockton and Middlesbrough; another change that will help a lot is the radical improvement of the A.19/A.I68 trunk route from south of Stockton right down to its connection at Dishforth with the A.1; in addition, the A.19 northwards from Stockton is to be comprehensively improved up to Sunderland to give Tees-side a better link with Tyneside.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, these are the main trunk routes linking Tees-side with the rest of the country, and to improve them means that the area in which my hon. Friend is interested will become gradually more and more clearly integrated with the industrial regions in other parts of the country. All this involves a vast additional programme which will cost approximately £18 million, and all of it we hope to start within the next five years.

To make sure, however, that the future trunk road pattern within the Tees-side area itself will be right, my right hon. Friend decided to appoint consultants to examine the needs of the area and to make recommendations. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that we hope to have their report within a matter of a few weeks.

In addition, of course, to these main trunk routes, the special programme for the North-East to which I have already referred, includes the construction of a new South Tees-side Parkway with a connection to Lackenby Dock. This will provide a vastly improved route between the industrial area and Teesoort and, with all this evidence of activity, there can be no doubt that the Government fully recognises the importance of roads to Tees-side. However, my hon. Friend may well ask whether the Government has got its priorities right. To that, I would say that I believe there is general agreement among hon. Members that, in this problem of phasing road improvements we have to put first things first.

Naturally, our policy is easier to accept if one lives in an industrial area rather than in a rural or semi-rural area such as that for which my hon. Friend speaks, but unless we concentrate our main effort on the major through routes and on schemes for the relief of congestion in urban areas, there will inevitably be a slowing down of industry through delays in the delivery of materials and goods, and that will be damaging to the economy of the country as a whole.

I think that one of the things about which my hon. Friend is complaining is that not enough is being done to improve the local roads in Cleveland itself which really fulfil two purposes. First, they have to some extent, an industrial purpose themselves in that they help the movement of materials and goods to and from the ironworks at Skinningrove, near Loftus; and, secondly, they are used by those who work in the Tees-side area, but live outside that area—the commuters, although my hon. Friend says he does not like talking of this as a dormitory area. The Ministry knows the needs of both industry and workers who are trying to get to that industry, and the very great importance of good roads to them both, and, as my hon. Friend will know, more money is being made available for roads than ever before.

In 1962–63, the Government spent £136 million and local highway authorities spent £80 million as against £33 million and £57 million respectively ten years ago. This year we are spending £179 million, with a corresponding increase in local authority expenditure. These are very substantial increases, but neither funds nor resources are unlimited. It simply is not possible to do everything at once and, in dealing with the main routes linking Teesside with the rest of the country, we have to be guided by our system of priorities.

That is not to say that we are doing nothing about the local roads in Cleveland; the very reverse is the fact. In recent years we have done a great deal, but before giving instances of this I should like to explain that the local road system in Cleveland is made up of Class 1 and lesser classified roads for which the North Riding County Council, Redcar Borough Council, and Eston Urban District Council, are the highway authorities. They are not the Minister's roads. The local highway authorities are responsible for them although in discharging their duties they do, of course, rely on the Ministry for grants towards the cost of improvements. The initiative—and I must stress this point—lies with the councils.

They decide, within their own areas, which they think are the most important roads, those which are most in need of improvement and, in common with other local authorities, they put to the Ministry the road schemes they want to carry out and for which they want grant assistance. That is the essence of local democracy; that each local authority should indicate within its own area the priorities of the various schemes on its list. When we get those lists at the Ministry we have to consider the competing bids of all authorities and, within the total funds at our disposal, to select for grant those schemes we think will give the greatest benefit to the community.

It may be that people living in Cleveland do not consider they are getting enough money for the necessary improvements. This is a common complaint from many areas, and certainly my hon. Fiend has been very pressing on behalf of his own constituency. He has not only had long correspondence with my predecessor—which I have had the benefit of reading—and with the Minister about these roads, but he has also discussed them personally and at length with my right hon. Friend. He is to be congratulated on his persistence on behalf of his constituents.

But although we recognise only too well that much of the local road system in Cleveland is in need of improvement, in comparison with the rest of the county, and with the country generally, traffic volumes are not high, and an examination of the records for the busiest roads in the area shows a low level of accidents. I have not been able to get any details about Cemetery Corner, but I will certainly look into that matter.

As we have explained previously to my hon. Friend, Cleveland has received its due share of the money which we have been able to allocate to road improvement in the North Riding. During the last seven or eight years, about 18 percent. of the Government money provided for improvements in the North Riding has been allocated to schemes in Cleveland, yet the area has only 5 per cent. of the classified road mileage in the county. These figures seem to indicate that Cleveland is not being neglected in any way.

To prove this, I should like to give some examples of recent work which has been carried out within the last five years. I apologise to the House if I have to quote a large number of figures. On the A.174 road there have been improvements at Windsor Road, Saltburn, costing £39,000; at Kelton Mill Bridge, costing £35,000; at Ormesby crossroads, costing £10,000; from Easington to Boulby Grange, costing £25,000 and at Redhouse Bridge, costing £12,000. Other improvements which have been carried out are a roundabout at the junction with the Tees Dock Road on A.1085, costing £25,000; widening of Middlesbrough Road East, B.1446, costing £27,000; widening at Mill Bank, Skelton on B.1267, costing £52,000, and provision of additional width on the Tees Dock Approach Road costing £29,000.

Furthermore, in addition to all this we were able last year to authorise works, costing nearly £500,000 over and above the normal programme, to help relieve unemployment in the region. Indeed, some of these works have already been completed, such as the improvement of Church Lane, Guisborough, while work is well under way on the improvement of the B.1365 at Hemlington and on the first stage of the improvement of Normanby Road, Eston. I am glad to say that work on the second stage has started and also on schemes at Ovens Close on the A.171 at Flatts Lane, Guisborough, and Kirkleatham Lane, Redcar. I think that this record shows a fair spread of work being undertaken.

I notice that my hon. Friend would like me to attend a "bridge week" in his constituency, but I think that we have already started, because a grant towards the removal of the bridge and the improvement of the road on the abandoned railway at Carlin How was issued last July and this should help considerably the transport of material and goods to and from the Skinningrove Iron Company near Loftus. I hope that that will encourage my hon. Friend. We also hope to authorise a grant for the improvement of Acklam Road, A.174, at Middlesbrough this year. It seems to me that Cleveland has not been doing too badly.

I do not know that there is a great deal more that I can say. I hope that I have shown that the North-East in general is not being neglected in the provision of trunk roads, which are the roads for which the Ministry is directly responsible, and that Cleveland will benefit from all that is being done to integrate the North-East quickly and efficiently in the modernisation of the road transport system of the country. I hope that I have shown, too, that for local highway authority roads, and these are what my hon. Friend has been discussing, the North Riding has received a very fair share of the money available. As I have shown, a lot of this has been spent on improving internal roads, which are important to the industry and inhabitants of my hon. Friend's constituency.

My hon. Friend and his constituents may feel that a larger proportion of what we have been able to allocate to the North Riding should have gone to their area. But this is really a matter for the working of the local authority. None of the schemes that has come up to its for approval at the head of the list has seemed unworthy, and in deciding about the priorities of local routes within the scope of the funds that can be allotted, who is better qualified to judge than those who are locally elected? If they do not choose the right ones they get slung out.

In saying this, I do not want my hon. Friend to think that we are washing our hands of the matter. There is, inevitably, a good deal of co-operation between local highway authorities and the Ministry, and I am glad to say that our relations with the North Riding County particularly are of the very best.

In conclusion, I can assure my hon. Friend that what he has said tonight about conditions in his constituency will be most carefully borne in mind when we allot funds, and I hope that this assurance will make him feel that his efforts tonight in informing me about the state of roads in his constituency have been well worthwhile.

question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at a quarter past Twelve o'clock.