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Faery lands forlorn
SOMETIMES Mr John Peyton's Department gives the impression of being more against transport industries than for them. At least this is the case with road transport, the industry which is as important as the rest of them put together. Something stronger than distaste comes through even the normally restrained departmental language.
It can be detected at one or two points in the report of the Department's working party on lorry parking. There is little that is original in the document. Its chief merit is to bring together a number of proposals which road operators have been urging for many years.
Efficient operation of any arm of transport requires the provision of space where the vehicles can be left safely and unobtrusively when they are not moving. If they are away from their base, there must also be satisfactory arrangements for their crew. The problem in road transport arises from that multiplicity of operators which in some other contexts is considered a major cause of the industry's efficiency.
Attempts to solve the problem have been piecemeal and halfhearted. It has been too easy for local authorities, whose goodwill is an essential basis, to shrug off their responsibility on the grounds that hauliers cause the problem and would benefit from the solution, and that they must therefore look for it themselves.
On this issue the working party has no difficulty in finding the right answer. Local authorities and commercial interests, says the report, ought to collaborate in providing purpose-built lorry parks. The extent of a local authority's share in the partnership must be enough to ensure that the recommended facilities are provided and that there is no change of use, such as the extension of services to the general public, which would make a lorry park less attractive to drivers and operators.
Local government comes under another wing of the Department, so that the clear decision on this crucial point ought to have considerable weight. It is the more regrettable that the authors of the report have been unable to forget that their domain is the "environment". There is no admission that years before the word became fashionable, responsible operators saw the need for every one of the points which have now been given official respectability.
The report makes no bones about what is considered to be the dominant theme. Pride of place is given to the "serious loss of amenity to those whose environment is being impaired by the intrusion of" lorries. Presumably, had it not been for this "loss of amenity" the working party would not have been set up, and operators, who for over a generation have lacked a sympathetic ear, would have had to be patient still longer.
Agreement between the recommendations in the report and the opinions so often expressed by the industry does not reflect a common point of view, as can be seen from the one or two points where there is a divergence. Most important of these is the selection of the most suitable site for a lorry park. Operators and drivers would like it to be reasonably convenient for their various purposes. There ought to be satisfactory routes to the park and from the park to the main industrial centres in the town. The driver would not wish to be too far from some place of relaxation.
These considerations are not completely ignored in the report but they are well down the list in order of importance. The priorities could hardly be clearer. "The effect which the existence of a large area devoted to the parking of lorries will have on the locality in which it is sited will be a matter of prime importance to its acceptability by residents and others whose amenity is at risk," says the report.
"The first principle is, therefore, that such parks should be well away from dwellings, schools, shopping areas and other places with a significant amenity value." The lorry driver and his abominable vehicle must therefore be banished beyond the pale, or in the euphemistic language of the report CO "the periphery of urban areas".
These vague regions of siirburbia are often the delight of the commuter and therefore surely have a "significant amenity value". It cannot be these that the working party has in mind, any more than the so-called Green Belt areas or those considered to be of outstanding natural beauty. What remains when these possibilities are taken away must indeed be faery lands forlorn where nobody in his right mind would wish to sojourn.
It is regrettable that the working party should advocate the building of ghettos where the unspeakable lorry and its driver can be carefully segregated from all decent citizens, perhaps until, in the somewhat unfortunate phrase used by Mr Peyton recently, the heavy lorry is made "more civilized". The additional suggestion that there might be "some form of special transport service to and from the town centre" is not likely to be taken very seriously by the drivers.
Reluctant local authorities are virtually given an incentive to site their own lorry parks on the local rubbish tip, or perhaps in a haunted house or some other property where the present rateable value is nil.