§ Mr. Bill Walker
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the Government's policy and practice for providing new motorway service areas in respect of development of the motorway network in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
The Scottish Development Department is currently progressing a massive motorway building programme in Scotland and schemes valued at over £650 million are now coming on stream. An integral part of the development of the motorway network will be ensuring the provision of adequate services in strategic locations, such as network focal points. The general policy will be to secure new service areas spaced roughly 20 to 30 miles apart on existing motorways where there is a gap in provision and on new motorways.
The general policy as to the siting, planning, design and operation of motorway service areas (MSAs) is to ensure:
- (a) the development of an adequate network of service facilities;
- (b) genuine competition for service provision through competitive tendering for provision of services;
- (c) road safety, by restricting and controlling access to the motorways, and by preventing inappropriate activities at service areas (such as the sale of alcohol);
- (d) the maintenance of the necessary range of services for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including facilities for the disabled and provision for heavy goods vehicles.
The Department's policy will therefore be to ensure that the consumer is provided with an adequate range of choice and good value for money, while upholding the highest standards of road safety. This depends among other things on promoting fair competition among firms seeking to provide services. Normally competitive tenders are sought from the private sector for the development and a long lease of the site, in return for an appropriate rent which reflects the market value of the site as developed. In implementing its policy the Department will, of course, remain flexible to the specific needs and circumstances of particular routes, areas and local communities.
To achieve the control over the planning, development and future use of MSAs it is intended that the Secretary of State should, except in very exceptional circumstances, own the sites which are identified as suitable for the provision of MSAs and that the Department should obtain 662W the appropriate planning clearance. If an identified site is not already in the Secretary of State's possession it will be acquired either voluntarily or, if necessary, by using compulsory purchase powers. The site would then be open to competition and thereafter leased to a firm which would provide the services with the necessary control over the site being exercised through appropriate conditions in the lease. Other things being equal, leases for adjacent sites would not be awarded to the same firm. The lease control would not entail intervening in the detailed management of sites, which is best left to the firm providing the services, but would ensure that basic requirements—for example, round-the-clock provision of certain facilities—continue to be met and that basic restrictions, for example, on the sale of alcohol, continue to be observed.
As part of the route studies for the M74 and M80 motorways consultants will be advising on suitable sites for service areas. Once these have been identified and they are in the Secretary of State's ownership they will then be the subject of an application for planning clearance before making the necessary arrangements for leasing the site.
Where proposals are brought forward for service areas which are designed to meet the needs of motorway users but which would not actually be sited on the motorway itself—that is, off a road or roundabout giving access to it—the relevant planning applications will fall to be considered by the local planning authority. In such cases planning authorities will no doubt take into consideration not only the road safety and traffic implications of the proposals but existing and proposed service areas on the motorway itself.
I hope that I shall be able to make a further statement about our preferred locations for service areas in the near future.