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Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle): I am delighted to have secured this debate on the south-east Manchester multi-modal study, which affords me an opportunity to request that the Minister make a statement. The study was announced at the same time as a Government decision to detrunk, or refuse trunk status to, a number of roads in south-east Manchester. Thus, in 1998, the A6 was detrunked and it was decided not to make the A555 a trunk road, in spite of the levels and type of traffic on each road. The anticipated road network in the study area has not been completed.
With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) will discuss the impact of road traffic in his constituency. I shall confine my remarks to Cheadle and Macclesfield. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is unable to be here today, and has asked me to make several comments on his behalf. There has been cross-party campaigning in the House by politicians from the area and a recognition that all are affected and need to work together.
For well over half a century, the Manchester airport eastern link route has had a route protected in anticipation of its development. As the suburbs that make up my constituency were built, space for the road, which would link Poynton and Hazel Grove in the east, and the developing Manchester airport and the M56 in the west, was kept clear.
In the late 1980s and 1990s it became obvious that road traffic was building up throughout the area. Public transport failed to keep abreast of developments and to meet the needs of local people. Bus services were particularly poor, and cycling became ever more difficult as road traffic increased.
In 1991 a public inquiry was held in Bramhall in my constituency on the proposal to build a bypass for the A34 and, linked with it, the central section of the Manchester airport eastern link route. That central section quickly became known as the road to nowhere because it failed to link the airport with anything.
The central section was built in spite of public protest that it would funnel traffic on to the A555 through completely unsuitable and often substandard A roads in district shopping centres and residential roads. The net effect of the incomplete eastern link was to create traffic congestion through Poynton, Woodford, Bramhall and Heald Green. All the local shopping centres were damaged, not just by the new superstores that sprang up around the new A34 but by pollution, noise and the dangers of shopping where there is standing and slow-moving car trafficoften for seven days a week.
There is still no easy route from the motorway and airport to the south-east and Macclesfield areas and beyond into Derbyshire. Car and freight traffic pass through Finney lane in Heald Green, through Woodford road in Bramhall and Woodford and through the centre of Poynton. That has implications for businesses in the area, including BAE Systems and AstraZeneca, to name but two. Poynton, Bramhall and Heald Green are shopping
I have asked for this debate because the findings of the multi-modal study recognise the transport difficulties of the whole area, and make recommendations that local MPs can welcome almost 100 per cent. One in three people in our area say that traffic congestion is their biggest single problem. We have long recognised that the road network needed to be completed to take through-traffic away from shopping centres. We have also recognised that, with the dramatic predicted increases in car and freight traffic, it is necessary to make bus and rail services more attractive, frequent and reliable; to encourage walking and cycling; and to make extensions to the metrolink light rail network where possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove will no doubt expand on that.
I cannot pretend that I was delighted when the Government announced the multi-modal study in 1998. "What's a multi-modal study?" was the question on everyone's lips. The Minister will accept that my constituents have been waiting for 10 years for even a sniff of the completion of the road network, which is treated as the next item on the agenda at the time of the public inquiry. Some people say, "I'll be dead before it happens," such is their despondency at the time that successive Governments have taken to grapple with the issue and their lack of faith in Government politicians. When they see successive Governments approving bypasses in other parts of the country with lesser problems than ours, their misgivings are confirmed.
However, the time that the study has taken and the opportunities afforded by it have given anyone who did not want the road network to be completed time to say so. The consultation, led by Steer Davies Gleave and managed by the Government office for the north-west, received more than 15,000 responses from the public. There has been astonishing support from residents, businesses and travellers for the completion of the roads and, indeed, the remainder of the proposals in the package. Those proposals will enhance the environment in district shopping centres, return residential areas to pedestrians and reduce greenhouse gases, if carried out in full.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove and I believe that dual carriageways with slower road speeds are appropriate for those roads. The fast speeds produced on the motorway-standard central section of the A555the eastern linkhave led to noise problems for surrounding residential areas. I am pleased that the study consultants have recommended that there should be a presumption of no development around the new roads to ensure they do not become clogged up with development traffic.
The north-west regional assembly has sent a favourable recommendation to the Minister and bids have already been made in the local transport planning process for parts of the programme. Further delay will be interpreted in our area as an indication that the study has simply been a delaying mechanism. As I said, I was unhappy when the study was announced because I thought so too. There have been some positive outcomes, in particular the proposals to do more than simply complete the road network. As has been pointed out by the consultants, the roads and the other measures are all required; to build one or two parts of the three road schemes would simply extend the folly of the incomplete Manchester airport eastern link route.
I urge that further consideration be given to two issues. The hon. Member for Macclesfield has asked me to relay his concerns, which he shares with business, about the intention simply to upgrade the A523 south of Poynton in his constituency, where it links with the dual carriageway of the Silk road to Macclesfield. He and companies such as AstraZeneca at Hurdsfield want this section to be of the same standard as the Silk road and the Poynton bypass that it will jointhat is, a dual carriageway.
The Minister may be aware of the recent redundancies announced at BAE Systems in Woodford. The use of dual instead of single carriageway on the south side of the Poynton bypass might well make it easier for planning permission to be awarded for a new access road from the site to the A523, thus facilitating possible new contracts from the MOD.
I have been asked by the Stockport cycling group to request that, when plans are proposed for the new A6 bypass, the A555 Manchester airport link road west and the A555-A523 Poynton bypass, they include adequate provision for cyclists at the design stage.
I should like to finish by paying tribute to the consultants at Steer Davies Gleave, not only because they have made proposals with which the vast majority of my constituents can agree, but because of the thoroughness of their approach and for withstanding rigorous scrutiny of their consultation process with good humour, even if not always with quite the transparency that I requested, at all times.
I hope that the Minister will make an early announcementtoday would be appropriateto bring some cheer to the industry and people of the south-east Manchester area and to provide the funding for work that is long overdue.