Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Defends Block on A1 Plans

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Defends Block on A1 Plans

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes Political Editor

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has defended plans by North-East road chiefs to block developments along the A1 Western Bypass, saying it would be "daft" not to consider their impact on the congested route.

Speaking exclusively to The Journal, Mr Darling said it was essential for the Highways Agency to have the power to call in plans that might increase traffic on the bypass despite mounting fears it will bring jobs growth in the region to a grinding halt.

Pressure is building on the minister to intervene in the row between the Highways Agency and Government quangos charged with promoting economic development following concerns the effective "veto" could block building at key enterprise sites such as Team Valley and Newcastle's Great North Park.

However, speaking ahead of his visit to Newcastle today, Mr Darling said "bitter experience" had required the agency and local authorities to ask for more information about planning applications, saying it would be "daft" not to consider their impact on the local transport system.

"If you don't do that you might have complaints that roads are coming to a grinding halt ( that no-one thought to ask how many cars are coming from a development. That's not just a hypothetical problem, that's happened all over the country. Something is built and someone says the road won't take it. That's daft."

Dismissing suggestions the Highways Agency was deterring businesses from investing in the region, the Secretary of State said no-one was under "any doubt" a prosperous North-East economy needed to be "underpinned by a transport system that works".

However he refused to back calls for the A1 Western Bypass to be widened to three lanes, saying few people believed you could "build your way out of the problems we face. …

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