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Not the end of the road

Pragmatism rather than new age propaganda has won the argument over the need for highways, judging from the contents of the Government's White Papers on roads in England and Wales.

Yes, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions has put environmental impact top of its assessement criteria in the new, soon to be familiar AST acronym - 'appraisal summary table'.

No, the government has not said 'no more roads', having applied AST.

In fact, AST as applied by the DETR has shown that what had become some of the nation's most environmentally contentious road schemes should be pressed on with. The Birmingham Northern Relief Road, the 12-lane M25, and many bypasses are to start - to relieve communities from the effects of traffic and to give economic benefits.

With 37 schemes in England given the go ahead, 44 passed to Regional Planning Conferences and 19 detrunked routes handed to local authorities while only 18 were withdrawn, the White Paper is a more positive verdict on roads that expected. At worst it sits on the fence with much in the way of final decisions, and finance, pushed to regional level.

Generally it is extremely practical, promoting exclusive lorry lanes where appropriate, recognising routes may need widening to add bus and multiple occupancy lanes, and boosting quiet road surfaces. The solution to the A303 bottleneck blighting Stonehenge is also pragmatic. Robbing heritage funds to help finance a tunnel highlights the value to be put on preserving the monument's environment from the effects of a vital transport corridor.

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