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Minister for Transport declares that beauty is of vital importance to road infrastructure

5 February 2015

Minister for Transport declares that beauty is of vital importance to road infrastructure Photo: © Laurie Cox

Campaigners welcome pledge at CPRE-CBT lecture that aesthetics will be crucial consideration in road building plans.

Minister for Transport John Hayes MP pledged yesterday to incorporate beauty and good design into the Government’s extensive road development plans at an event organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

In what proved a major speech on the importance of beauty in delivering infrastructure projects, Mr Hayes outlined plans for a design panel and beauty tests to ensure that roads can be sensitive to their surrounding environment.

In response to Mr Hayes, CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion welcomed the new focus on beauty, reflecting that the "vast majority of people never abandoned beauty. It was more a case of beauty being beaten out of them". Sir Andrew also questioned the need to build so many new roads, suggesting that such passion for the environment might be better placed in improving existing infrastructure and public transport.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, similarly welcomed the new focus, referencing a new initiative with the think tank ResPublica that aims to ensure that communities have a ‘right to beauty’. Mr Spiers also emphasised that CPRE would urge the Government to increase its environmental budget within the roads strategy – currently £550m out of a total £15bn.

The lecture was organised following the Government’s announcement in December 2014 that £15 billion would be spent on building new roads under its proposed Road Investment Strategy.

Sir Andrew Motion, CPRE President, said:

“The Minister's ambition to create a greater harmony between our road network and our priceless countryside is a noble aim, and I wholeheartedly welcome his understanding that our roads must be improved for the benefit of communities and the countryside.

“I hope his ideas for blending existing roads with the landscape - while reducing the noise, air and light pollution they produce - are taken just as seriously by his colleagues in the Government. And in outlining such good ideas for improving our existing roads, it raises the question - why spend the vast majority of the DfT's budget on new roads?

“If we care about the countryside – its look, its feel, its sustainability, its durability - we must not trail yet more concrete highways through green fields, so they can simply fill up with more cars, emitting more fumes to hasten the death of the planet. New roads should always be an option of last resort.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport, commented:

"We welcome the Minister's commitment to ensuring that road developments respect local landscape and place beauty and good design at their heart, as well as the funding that has been announced within the Government's Road Investment Strategy to reduce the environmental impact of the existing road network.

"However, the Government's massive road building programme will still create new traffic and contribute to air pollution and carbon emissions. The priority remains to ensure that the transport system as a whole is one which promotes greener, accessible and more affordable travel."

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Read the full speaker notes

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