A View from the Ministry

Collected here, the minutes and internal discussions relating to the Charnwood Forest route from the Ministry of Transport’s files held in The National Archive.  They cover the period 1956 to 1960 and relate specifically to the activites of the Advisory Committee on on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads.

27 July 1956 LT/14

Announcement in the House 30 May 1956 that preliminary survey of the northern section of the motorway had been completed and that he would have to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food.  He hoped to publish a draft of the scheme by the end of the year.

The proposed line had been discussed with MAFF and headquarters representatives of the NFU and the County Landowners’ Association on 28 July 1955.  ‘..these bodies strongly criticised, inter alia, the proposed line in Leicestershire.  Agricultural interests were united in suggesting that the line should go through the middle of Charnwood Forest (a scheduled area under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949), and not, as the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation proposed, through the north-east corner of it.’

‘The Minister has approved a submission by the Department that the line suggested by agricultural interests through the middle of Charnwood Forest should be rejected and the Ministry of Agriculture have been informed accordingly.  Two major principles were in the Minister’s mind in reaching this decision—

  1. Motorways have to fulfil their essential purpose of providing safe, fast through routes as close as possible to centres of industry and population.
  2. National policy is to preserve amenities as far as possible while providing the roads necessary to bring up to date trunk roads system in this country.

‘In addition, the Minister noted that the Leicester City and Leicester County Councils both wished the amenities of Charnwood Forest to be preserved so far as possible; that on engineering grounds the line suggested through the middle of the Forest would cause a series of severe gradients along the route; that it would be liable to mist and icing in winter, and would in other respects be unattractive to long-distance industrial traffic; that the privacy and amenities of Ulverscroft Priory and of Mount St Bernard’s Abbey would be seriously impaired; and that traffic passing through Leicestershire on the line proposed by the Department would have a far better view of the rising heights of the Forest and its beauties than if it traversed a line through the bottom of the Forest valleys, hemmed in as they are by hills and woods of the Forest.

The main objection on agricultural grounds to the line proposed by the Department was that it would pass through some of the best agricultural land in Leicestershire, whereas the proposed Forest line would cross mainly poor quality land.  It was further objected that the Forest line was 1 ½ miles shorter than the Department’s proposed line.  Nevertheless, the severe gradients and coast for heavy earthworks on the Forest line would offset the disadvantages of the extra length of the Department’s line which could also be more conveniently linked to the existing road system than the Forest line.  Moreover, the agricultural objections overlook the fact that if the motorway were taken through the Forest it would probably be necessary (because of the comparative remoteness of this line from the towns of Loughborough and Leicester) to carry out improvements on the present trunk route A.6 which would involve the construction of four bypasses; (at Quorn, Loughborough, Hathern and Kegworth); the aggregate of agricultural land taken by these bypasses and the proposed Forest line would, in our opinion, at least equal the amount taken by the Department’s proposed line.’

8 August 1956

Advisory committee on the landscape treatment of trunk roads, minutes of fourth meeting.

Chairman.  David Bowes-Lyon (2 May 1902-13 Sept 1961); Miss Brenda Colvin (1897-1981), co-founder of the Institute of Landscape Architects (1929) and its president from 1951; Dr Wilfrid fox (1875-22 May 1962), dermatologist and founder of the Roads Beautifying Association (1928); Mr K.L. Kelly; Mr G. Langley-Taylor, chairman of the CPRE; Sir Eric Savill (1895-1980), estate administrator and horticulturalist; and Dr George Taylor (15 Feb 1904-13 Nov 1993) director of the Royal Botanical Gardens 1956-71, indeed was congratulated on his appointment in the minutes.  Absent, Lord Rosse, Mr Clough Williams-Ellis (author of England and the Octopus) and Major Dobb

Item 6c London-Yorkshire Motorway (second section)

As stated in paper LT/14, objections to the line of route of the second section of the London-Yorkshire Motorway (east of Birmingham to near Doncaster) had been raised by agricultural interests who suggested a line through the middle of Charnwood Forest.  The Minister had rejected this alternative route on the grounds that it would be remote and inconvenient and, in particular, would unduly disturb a region of considerable natural beauty.

Mr Langley-Taylor said that he felt most strongly that in this instance the interests of agriculture should give way to those of amenity.  He was supported by Dr Taylor who suggested that the Nature Conservancy should be consulted as the Forest was, he thought, regarded by them as of great importance.

The Chairman considered that it was outside the terms of reference of the Committee to advise, as they had been requested, and the general principle of whether amenities should be preserved at the expense of encroachment on agricultural land….The Committee did not feel able, therefore, to record any recommendation on the question of an alternative route through Charnwood Forest.

7 September 1956 Letter from A.H.M. Irwin to Bowes-Lyon

Asking the committee to reconsider since it was found that the committee’s position was inconsistent with the general policy ‘to preserving or taking advantage of natural features whenever this can be done without causing undue engineering difficulties or disturbance of agricultural land’ (quoted from Press Notice after the committee’s first meeting); their regret over their late consultation over the first part of the motorway line which had already been fixed; and their intervention in the Bakewell bypass.

25 September 1956 LT/18

Transcript of the letter of 7 Sept 1956

10 October 1956 LT/M5 Minutes of the fifth committee meeting of the Landscape Treatment advisory committee.

Two new members, Sir Ralph Clark replacing Lord Bolton as representative of the Royal Forestry Society of England and Wales; and Mrs R. Spitta, succeeding Dr Fox as the Roads Beautifying Association’s representative.  Also present, Bowes-Lyon, K.L. Kelly, Langley-Taylor, Lord Rosse, Savill, Taylor, and Clough Williams-Ellis.

Business begins with discussion of bridge designs for the first section of the motorway, with business turning to Charnwood Forest only as item 6 on the agenda.

‘Thee question of the alternative routes of the London-Yorkshire Motorway through Charnwood Forest were again considered.  Sir Owen [Williams, Consultant Engineer for the London-Yorkshire Motorway] said that the route through the middle of the forest would present slightly fewer engineering problems.  It would, however, be further from the population centres to the east, for which separate by-passes would have to be built if this route were used for the motorway.  He informed Mr Williams-Ellis that a number of junctions with the motorway would be provided.  The route through the middle of the forest would probably not be greatly used in winter on account of its high altitude, and of weather conditions.  The Committee recommended that the road should not pass through the middle of the forest and that the eastern route should be adopted.

2 December 1957 Letter from N.S. Despicht to Mr Lodge

‘On Friday 29th November Mr Langley-Taylor rang up and asked why the recommendations of the Landscape Committee on the MR line through the Charnwood Forest had been ignored.  He had learnt of the adoption of the eastern route from angry comments by the CPRE.  He wished this to be an item for the agenda of the next meeting but when I reminded him that this would be on a bus, he asked that it should be dealt with at once as an extraordinary matter.’

I think here Despicht gets his facts muddled.  It is the adoption of the Charnwood route rather than the eastern route!

2 December 1957 K.N.F. Lodge to Mr Kennedy

Referring to the above minute:

‘You mentioned this to me the other day when I understood that the change had been a personal decision of the Minister.  Could I have the full story, please, so that we can, if possible, placate Mr Langley-Taylor (who is Chairman of the C.P.R.E.) right away.

3 December 1957 A.G. Kennedy to Lodge

‘I am afraid that there is very little we can tell the Landscape Committee at this stage about the route of the motorway through Leicestershire.

As you know, the Minister originally accepted the recommendation for the route to the east of the Forest, but subsequently, after personal correspondence with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in which the objections on agricultural grounds to the eastern (i.e. non-Forest) line were stressed, the Minister gave instructions for a survey to be made of a possible route through Charnwood Forest.  This survey has not yet been completed but when it is, and we receive the Consultant Engineers’ recommendations relating thereto, the proposed route will probably have to be referred again to the Minister, with arguments for and against.  We can not anticipate any decision he may make in the light of new evidence (if any) produced.

I am sorry that this does not help with your present problem but as you will see, we are not at present in a position to submit any line to the Committee.  Any Forest line proposed will certainly differ from the original one which was considered earlier by the Committee but to what extent we can not say.  It would, however, be premature to admit that (as alleged) the Committee’s recommendation on the route had be “ignored”.

Lodge then drafts a letter to Langley-Taylor sending it to Despicht, who passes to Mr Irwin for his information via Mr Newman asking for his agreement

6 December 1957 Memo from Newman to Despicht.

‘….is not quite right.  The Minister decided to pursue a Forest line & ordered surveys accordingly: all we can do when the survey is ready will be to put the line up for approval to publication in draft and point out the little hell even the surveys are raising.’

10 December 1957 Letter from Despicht to Langley-Taylor

‘I have now looked into the question of the line of the London-Yorkshire Motorway in the region of Charnwood Forest, about which you telephoned me the other day.  No proposal for this section of the Motorway has yet been published for statutory purposes;[1] further, I find that no final decision has yet been taken.

As you know, it was the Minister’s original intention that, despite objections from agricultural interests, the motorway should follow a line which would avoid Charnwood Forest, and in this proposal he was, or course, strongly supported by the recommendations of his Landscape Advisory Committee.  Subsequently, however, after personal discussion with his colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, he decided that a survey should be made of a possible line through the Forest.  This survey is not yet competed but when it is a submission will be put to the Minister.  Any line resulting from this survey will almost certainly be different from the one which was considered by the Committee last year, and as soon as we are in a position to do so we shall show this line (and indeed the whole line of the second section of the motorway) to the Committee so that their comments and recommendations can be put before the Minister.’

12 December 1957 Reply from Langley-Taylor to Despicht

‘I have heard a very strong rumour that some members of the County Council consider that the Council has made a wrong decision in supporting the road through the Forest.  However, it will be interesting to look at the problem again when it comes before the Landscape Advisory Committee.’

27 February 1958 Internal memo from Kennedy to Lodge, providing a confidential report LT/66.

‘You may want to ‘top’ and ‘tail’ it or alter the tone here and there to make it more readily digestible to the committee in the light of your experience in dealing with them.  It might be advisable to emphasise that it is confidential (the second para. In any event, and the remainder until we publish the draft scheme) unless you are satisfied that the Cttee. have a general understanding that these things are confidential—presumably they have!

February 1958 LT/66 Draft note for circulation to committee

‘The committee discussed proposals for the route of the second section of the London-Yorkshire motorway at the 4th and 5th meetings, held on 8th August and 10th October, 1956, when two possible alternatives routes for part of the motorway passing through the county of Leicester were considered.  The Committee recommended the adoption of the eastern alternative, avoiding the centre of Charnwood Forest.

Subsequently, the Minister was approached direct by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with further representations concerning the loss of high quality agricultural land which would be caused by constructing the motorway along the eastern route.  After personal discussion with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Minister directed that a fresh survey for a possible route through the Charnwood Forest area should be undertaken by the Consulting Engineers.  This survey has now been completed and the Consulting Engineers’ recommendations for the whole route have been received and are being examined in the Department before they are submitted to the Minister.

The present proposed route through Charnwood Forest has been referred again to the Nature Conservancy, since it differs slightly from that previously proposed.  The Conservancy has previously expressed their opinion in favour of avoiding the Forest if possible.

From Crick the route runs roughly north, crossing the River Avon at the boundary with Leicestershire, and, passing to the west of and fairly near the city of Leicester, turns north-west through the centre of Charnwood Forest.  It then bears north, crossing the navigable waters of the River Trent at the boundary with Derbyshire…’

28 February 1958 Internal memo Lodge to Newman

‘It seems likely that the Committee will express strong views and ask questions about the probable reversion to a line through Charnwood Forest, their recommendation having been that the Forest should be avoided, and you may therefore wish to see and agree what it is proposed to tell them in this paper.  I think the note at doc 7 should do very well and and [sic] give sufficient information at this stage, leaving the way open for any questions about Charnwood Forest or elsewhere to be answered by the Department’s representatives at the meeting…Mr Irwin may also like to see this note before it issues.’

March 1958 (before 17 March) Letter from Lodge to Langley-Taylor

‘You were good enough to undertake for the Committee the task of considering the proposed line of the second section of the London-Yorkshire Motorway, of which a general description was given in paper LT/66, and I enclose the five maps covering the route.

I should perhaps emphasise that the scheme is, as was indicated in LT/66, confidential until the draft Order has been published.’

17 March 1958 Reply from Langley-Taylor to Lodge

‘I understand from Mr Jeffery that it will not be possible to see Sir Owen Williams before our next meeting but he is arranging that we go down on Sunday, April 20th, and visite the site on the 21st and 22nd.

Newspaper cutting

’30, 000 protest at motor route.  A petition protesting against the proposed routing of the new London to Yorkshire motorway through Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, is to be presented at the Ministry of Transport in London on March 19.  The petition has been signed by more than 30,000 people.’

29 April 1958 Jeffery responding to the report of Langley-Taylor.

May 1958 LT/73 Langley-Taylor’s report presented to the Advisory Committee

‘Alternative routes from Leicester Forest East to Kegworth

  1. Westerly route through

Charnwood Forest

Via Groby crossing A.50 west of the town//crossing B5327 west of Newton Linford//crossing B591 and B5350 near to their junction//crossing A512 and the Railway west of Shepshed//Thence slightly East of North across//B5401 West of Long Whatton and across//B5400 west of Kegworth to a junction on A6 at Lockington

  1. Easterly route via

Crossing A50 west of Glenfield to East Anstey and then between Cropston and Thurcaston bearing west to Swithland following SE boundary of Reservoir.  Keeping east of railway to cross B591 near Quorn and Woodhouse Statin where bend NE to cross B5350 to Holywell Hall and A512 and the Railway west of Snells Nook.  Bend northwards to cross B5330 east of Hathern and then NE crossing B5324 and B5401 to the junction of A6 at Lockington.

Both routes traverse agricultural land which in general terms are not very different.

The Eastern route (2) does however pass through some very valuable water meadows for about two miles north and south of Anstey which is probably more valuable form an agricultural point of view than any land on the Eastern [sic] route.

On the other hand the western route goes through more remote country and is further away from the built up areas of Leicester and Loughborough and from an amenity point of view it is less desirable.

There is probably not much difference in the acreage of agricultural land to be taken.

It is understood that if the Western route is taken it will still be necessary to make by-passes to Mount Sorrel, Quorndon, Loughborough, Kegworth and Hathern, so that ultimately more agricultural land will be taken than would be required if the Eastern route is adopted as in that case the motor way would also provide the necessary by-passes.

There will be some long embankments and cuttings of various heights and depths.

Although in many places little or no planting will be necessary, a careful survey should be made and in this connection it is essential that planting areas should be decided before the acquisition of land is negotiated.

The eastern route would appear to be the most satisfactory for the traffic because although a mile longer it does avoid a fairly steep climb on to high land on the western route through Charnwood Fores which would not be as attractive to lorry drivers as to keep on the existing road to avoid fog and ice.

On balance, therefore it seems that the Eastern route is preferable as being an easier route for traffic as avoiding the remote country through the forest and because if by-passes to built up areas will be necessary an unnecessary acquisition of agricultural land can be avoided.

…’

19 September 1958 The Times

‘Charnwood Forest to Keep its Amenities

Fears that Charnwood Forest would be cut in half by the proposed London to Yorkshire motorway are removed by the adoption of a new line crossing the north-west section of the forest.  Four routes were considered by the Leicestershire Motorway Committee, and the route to be put before the county council on September 30 is unlikely to be opposed.  The new road will now cut off one-third of the forest, but this section is an extinct volcanic area visited seldom by the public.’

30 September 1958 Letter from Florence E. Pole, The Ramblers’ Association, Leicestershire and Rutland Area to Sir Herbert Griffin, CPRE

‘Thank you for your letter of 22nd September regarding the above [London to Yorkshire Motorway].  I have delayed replying until our committee had met.  This meeting has now taken place and we discussed the whole matter of the London to Yorkshire Motorway very fully.

Whilst the most recent siting of the road will be away from the popular areas of Charnwood forest, it will, we feel, completely spoil one of the quietest and loveliest valleys in the whole district, namely Charley Vale.  This area will be completed cut off and the access to it rendered almost impossible by the construction of the road.  This is the area which the “Time” refers to as “an extinct volcanic area seldom visited by the Public”.  It is true that it is not visited by the public to the same extent as other areas, but without a doubt it is visited by a considerable body of people who value it for its quietness and its beauty.

The only precise information we have is that published in the press and we have no doube that this will be the route agreed upon by the County Council.’

3 October 1958 Letter from CPRE to Langley-Taylor

‘You probably saw the report, of which I enclose a copy, in The Times of 19th September.  I wrote and asked the local Ramblers’ Association, who had been responsible for organizing the petition against the original route, what they thought of it, and I enclose a copy of their reply.’

7 October 1958  Letter from Langley-Taylor to Lodge

After conversation with Bowes-Lyon, asking Advisory Committee to consider two matters raised by the CPRE, including a letter concerning Charnwood Forest

8 October 1958 Minutes of the Advisory Committee

‘Mr Jeffery said that revised proposals for the line through Charnwood Forest had only just been received and were under consideration.  The Committee would be informed in detail at a later meeting.

9 October 1958 Memo from Lodge to Kennedy

Refering to letter of 7th October and enclosures.

19 August 1959 Internal memo from Newman

‘Minister today announced his decision to trans to a draft line for the L-Y motorway, second section, through Charnwood Forest.  This must be reported with reasons to Landscape Ctte, who did not support this, in October.  I suggest however a formal note from me, with reasons, go now to Sir David: of you agree pls con. Mr Blaxall for both matters in hand, the latter urgently, write Mr Beezley’s section.’

19 August 1959 The Times

Compromise on Motorway Scheme: Minister Accepts Council’s Route…

20 August 1959 Blaxall to Beezley

‘…when the line of Stage II of the motorway was last considered by the Landscape Advisory Committee (LT/M23, April 58), they recommended that the route through the Soar Valley should be chosen in preference to that through Charnwood Forest.  They have not as yet considered the “compromise” line put forward by Leicester C.C. which has now been adopted, and I should be grateful if you could let me have as soon as possible a short note giving the reasons for selecting this line and its advantages which I could incorporate in the letter which Mr Newman wishes to send to Sir David Bowes-Lyon.

20 August 1959 Memo from Beezley to Dewar

‘The main advantage of the line now proposed is that is avoids the valley route to which agricultural interests object and avoids the most cherished part of the Forest near Groby pool.  It may tap industrial traffic from the Coalville area and it swings closer to Loughborough than the Consultant’s forest line.

26 August 1959 Dewar [would become if he were not already The Secretary, Ministry of Transport] to Beezley

‘The line chosen is the one which was surveyed and recommended by Leics C.C.  Its southern half runs to the west of the Consultants’ Forest line one or two miles distant from it.  It leaves the Consultants’ line just east of Ratby, passes west of Groby and Markfield and crosses the former line at Hill Farm near Charley Hall.  It then runs east of the Consultants’ line at a distance of one or two miles passing east of Shepshed and rejoining the original line near Long Whatton.  I attach a map showing the route as a broken blue line.

This route leaves something to be desired from the engineering and traffic points of view, but it is not faced with the extremely strong agricultural objections met on the Valley line nor with the amenity objections of the Consultants’ line.  Although it goes through the Forest it avoids Groby Pool, Ulverscroft Priory and Newtown Linford which were threatened by the Consultants’ line.  It will take about 80 acres less land from the Forest.

From a practical standpoint the route now adopted has advantages over the Consultants’ line because it runs closer to Loughborough and it might prove useful for heavy industrial traffic from Coalville.’

31 August 1959 Letter from Newman to Sir David Bowes-Lyon

‘I apologise for disturbing you on holiday but think it desirable to let you know at once about the following scheme where the Minister has with reluctance been unable, because of very powerful objections, to follow fully the Committee’s advice.

You may have seen in the national press the announcement concerning the publication of the draft scheme for the second stage of the London-Yorkshire Motorway.  A full report will be prepared for the next meeting of the Landscape Advisory Committee in October.

When the second state of this motorway was last before the committee in April, 1958, two lines were considered for the section of the route passing through Leicestershire, the one through the Soar Valley and the other through Charnwood Forest.  The Committee recommended that the Soar Valley line was to be preferred.

Since then, however, all efforts to get even the minimum measure of general acceptance necessary before we publish a draft scheme have proved unavailing and, therefore, with political pressures increasing, a “compromise” line (shown broken blue on the plan attached) has been put forward by the Leicestershire County Council, and this is the line which has been adopted with a view to preparation of a draft scheme.

This route leaves something to be desired from the engineering and traffic points of view (i.e. it will still necessitate the construction of by-passes on the A6 trunk road) but it has the great advantage of not being faced with the extremely strong agricultural objections met on the Valley line nor with the amenity objections to and damage to many small farms of the Consultants’ Forest line.  Although it does in fact pass through the Forest, it avoids such valuable amenities as Groby Pool, Ulverscroft Priory and Newtown Linford which had previously been threatened, and it will take about eighty acres less land from the Forest than the Consultants’ line.

From the landscape aspect, therefore, I hope you will agree that this route has much to commend it…;

16-17 September 1959 Various drafts and memos relating to the drafting of LT/133 report for Advisory Board.

LT/133

To be transcribed!!!!

22 September 1959 Reply from Bowes-Lyon to Newman’s letter

‘While the compromise route is, of course, not eh one which the Advisory Committee would have chosen on its own, I can quite understand the necessity of the compromise, and I am sure the Committee will receive the information with interest at our October meeting.’

14 October 1959 Minutes of the Landscape Advisory Committee

‘Mr Jeffery recalled that the Committee had proposed a route close to the Soar Valley, but so many strong objections had been raised locally that it was impracticable to proceed with it.  The Leicestershire County Council had co-operated in the production of the alternative line now announced, which although not so good from the engineering point of view was less damaging to agricultural interestins and to the amenities of Charnwood Forest; it would however still be necessary to construct a series of by-passes on the A.6 trunk road.

Mr Langley-Taylor said that he could not agree that this new line would have less effect on agricultural interests since land would have to be taken for constructing the by-passes on A.6 as well.  The Chairman said that it appeared that virtually two new roads would have to be constructed, the motorway and a series of by-passes on A.6, instead of one through the Soar Valley serving both purposes.  Mr Jeffery and Mr Irwin said that there would be further opportunity for farming interests to lodge objections when the draft Scheme was formally published.  The Committee recommended that the Department, when publishing the Scheme, should explain that by-passes on A.6 were also in prospect.’

4 November 1959 Memo from Newman, HS Division

‘I note from the Minutes of the last meeting of the Landscape Committee that some strong notice was taken of the probable need for Bypasses on A.6 in addition to the motorway.

We must go carefully on this question of Bypasses supplementary to the motorway.  It is too early to say how much residual traffic will be left on A.5 when the London-Birmingham comes into full use; similarly it is too early to say categorically that Bypasses on A.6 are inevitable.  I am doubtful whether they should be included in the programme until we have at least seen what the motorway effect on the traffic of A.6 is.’

13 January 1960 Minutes of Advisory Committee

‘The Committee were informed that the draft Scheme for the second section of this motorway was published on 8th January , 1960, and it incorporated the compromise line for the Leicestershire section, details of which were given at the October meeting (LT/M 36 item 5).  In accordance with their wishes an accompanying memorandum mentioned the possibility that further improvements on the A.6 might be necessary.

7 October 1960 Ministry of Transport Press Release


[1] This phrase was inserted by Newman into Despicht’s draft letter.

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