§ Mr. David Martin
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the Government's policy and practice for providing new motorway service areas in England; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Our general policy for motorways is to provide service areas at strategic sites roughly 30 miles apart. Motorway service area (MSAs) rank as Crown developments and the general policy is that their siting, planning, design and operation are arranged by the Department to ensure:
- (1) The development of an adequate national network of MSAs;
- (2) Genuine competition between prospective operators through the competitive tendering of sites;
- (3) Road safety, by restricting access to the motorways; and by preventing inappropriate activities at MSAs, in particular consumption of alcohol;
- (4) The maintenance of the necessary range of facilities for 24 hours a day, including facilities for the disabled and provision for heavy goods vehicles.
In practice, the Department identifies sites, seeks planning clearance for a proposal and acquires the freehold of a site, either by agreement or by compulsory purchase. Competitive tenders are then sought from the private sector for the development and a long lease of the site in return for a premium payment. The successful tenderer then builds and operates the MSA.
It is sometimes suggested that service areas would be developed more quickly if the Department were to withdraw from MSA provision. There is no reason to believe this would be the case. There would remain a need for careful choice of site subject to the normal planning processes, and delay would be likely to arise from the need to determine competing planning applications, particularly where public inquiries were necessary. There have already in fact been cases where competing applications have delayed provision of the Department's strategic sites.
To ensure the development of a national network and the other objectives of competition, road safety and range of facilities, it is essential for the Government to take the lead in the provision of MSAs.