National Archives 2007-03-22

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National Archives, 22 March 2007

As before, this visit will consist largely of exploring files not previously seen, and likely to give additional insights into detailed planning of motorways.

MT 121/366

Contains a lot of material which the MOT used in its response to the Public Accounts C’ttee’s report, including detailed explanation of how benefits balanced against costs in the formulation of motorway design standards. The entire file is worth photographing, and is set aside for this purpose at a later stage.

MT 120/91

This file, which is important but perhaps not necessary to photograph unless we go down to scheme level, deals with the Ministry’s response to lobbying by various groups in West Yorkshire regarding the priority of the Sheffield-Leeds motorway. The WR interests (including the Yorks Chamber of Commerce and the WRCC) wrote to the Ministry in 1959, asking to have Sheffield-Leeds and the E-W motorway (later M62) jumped up in the road programme, feeling that the Ministry’s traffic estimate for the latter (60% of Sheffield-Leeds) was too low, and Sheffield-Leeds was needed to relieve overloaded trunk roads in the vicinity of Sheffield and also to relieve the congested WR conurbation more generally through the rapid construction of a motorway network. By 1959 WRCC was doing preliminary work to fix the alignment for Sheffield-Leeds, and in 1959/60 submitted an application to the Ministry to be named as the agent authority for Sheffield-Leeds (on balance Ministry reviewers were disposed to accept the proposal, because WRCC knew the lay of the land better and it was likely to be a complicated project, but held back slightly because they felt the WRCC might be too busy with A1 improvements). Ministry took the position, however, that it was difficult to fix Sheffield-Leeds without knowing where its southern end was going to be, and agricultural interests in Leicestershire were putting up such a fight about the M1 that Crick-Doncaster (the second part of London-Yorkshire) had deliberately been left out of Marples’ “big five” road programme. Ministry also felt WR traffic woes were being relieved, to a large extent, by A1 improvements (including Doncaster BP). Ministry did agree that Sheffield-Leeds would carry more traffic than the Doncaster spur, and some civil servants therefore objected to the use of the phrase “reinstated [my italics] in the road programme” in a PQ asked in relation to Sheffield-Leeds, because it had never actually been dropped from the programme in the first place; it had only been given lower chronological priority.

Interesting point to note. London-Yorkshire Motorway was not a motorway to the heart of Yorkshire; it was only a motorway to Yorkshire. Therefore, Ministry talked about Sheffield-Leeds and Doncaster motorways as if they were both spurs of London-Yorkshire.

January 1959: deputation of WR highway authorities at MOT HQ. Basically, they suggested omitting Doncaster spur, jumping up Sheffield-Leeds so it is built ASAP, and building Lancashire-Yorkshire motorway simultaneously. They also want a link road between north end of Sheffield-Leeds and Great North Road at Wetherby (subsequently built as M1-A1 link?), but MOT prefers improvements to Leeds ring road and A58. MOT response is that the “current order of priorities” (Crick-Doncaster, Sheffield-Leeds, Lancashire-Yorkshire) is optimal. Starting dates quoted in relevant minute (Doc 36) in terms of £60 million and £80 million ceilings to the road programme. £60 million (order of priority): 66/67, 68/69, 69/70; £80 million: 65/66, 66/67, 67/68. MOT didn’t agree regarding lack of need for a Doncaster spur, because of heavy port traffic at Hull and Grimsby.

The “big five” (listed in minute at Doc 25A, draft reply from MinT to Sir Peter Roberts Bart. MP): (1) modernization of A1; (2) Construction of London-Birmingham-Preston Motorway; (3) Improvement of route between Midlands & S Wales (M5/M50); (4) Improvement of route from London to Bristol & South Wales; and (5) Improvement of route from London to Channel ports. (1958-11-18; Watkinson.)

Lobbying began in earnest in June 1958 when WR highway authorities, in response to a number of resolutions in favor, submitted a preprinted “case” for their desired priorities to the Minister. Cover was printed, inside was typescript (quoting statistics relating to economic activity and industrial production designed to prove strategic transport need), and maps showed WR and their route proposals.

MT 123/59

This deals with settling-up details of Owen Williams’ consultant contract for the M1. There were some hiccups. Ministry thought about taking away a £5000 windfall Sir Owen had as a result of the decision to call for fixed-price tenders, but thought better of it. However, Ministry didn’t fully reimburse Owen Williams for the costs associated with elaborate landscaping plans, which were developed at great expense (including the hiring of a number of foresters), but rejected by the Advisory committee on landscaping of trunk roads. OW claimed for £39,000, Ministry offered £20,000 in settlement after much debate. OW also put in a supplementary claim in respect of the long time it took to close out with Laing—contractor was very slow submitting claims, so the process took six years instead of the more usual 1½. Ministry refused the supplementary claims; Lofthouse report later recommended imposing a holdback penalty for contractors’ dilatoriness in settling-up.

Owen Williams was also reimbursed for work connected to experimental trials, including hard shoulders, lane markers, and hard shoulder reconstruction, for a total fee-payable works total of £18,990,692. (Fee was 3.75% of 50% of actual works cost.)

File contains the original copy of the consulting engineer agreement, together with Minister’s official seal. Dated 1956-08-23. Signed by Owen Williams himself, OT Williams, and one other person, and countersigned for Minister by Gillender, an assistant secretary. (Original of minister’s counterpart not included—this was sent to Owen Williams.) Multiple drafts, wording revisions.

MT 152/1

This deals with a claim made by JA Pettitt in regard to a farm he occupied (as a tenant) for which about 7 acres, out of a total of about 40, had to be acquired for the motorway, with added disruptions (entry and stopping-up of a brook he used to water his cattle). The file was saved apparently because the case was referred to the Land Tribunal. It gives an idea of the scope and extent of the “householder’s surplus” problem. Pettitt was unwilling to settle with the MOT because the motorway disrupted his sweetheart relationship with his landlord (subpar rent--£90 for land which could sustain an estimated annual rent of £250) and he could not be compensated directly for this. Entry was obtained in 1962/63 and the case was still going on by 1967/68. To give an idea of the negotiating positions, after the case had been going on for several years, Mr Pettitt had been paid a £200 advance, but the Ministry recommended a final settlement for approximately £380. Mr Pettitt totted up the various annoyances, including five years of metered water to replace the stopped-up brook, the maintenance cost for the motorway fence, etc. (lots of little petty charges) and came up with a claim for £1620. The case (according to next file, see below) was taken to the Land Tribunal, which awarded £976. The Ministry appealed, but only £100 or so was shaved off. HLL Division didn’t recommend appealing to the Lords because the decision from the Court of Appeal was so unfavourable. Decision appeared in the Estates Gazette of 1969-01-25, rendered by Denning, Russell, and Winn.

MT 152/2

Cf MT 152/1 (this file contains much of the fallout from the Land Tribunal and appeal). It also contains copies of the judgments, reports in the Estates Gazette and the Times, and also file correspondence from the Ministry regarding the legal implications of the judgment for other land purchases. The Ministry had two main concerns regarding the legalities, as expressed in a 1968-03-22 letter: (1) higher compensation payments, and (2) a new requirement to pay rent for a set period of time. This was 3 years under an old judgment; 6 years in the Land Tribunal decision in Pettitt’s case; 4 years in a bill dealing with compensation matters which was before Parliament in 1968 (the Agriculture [Miscellaneous Provisions] Bill); and 5 years in Pettitt’s £1620 claim document (MT 152/1).

MT 34/119

This is the main file for the Traffic Signing Committee (chaired by Sir Henry Maybury) of 1931. It includes: (1) printed copy of the final report; (2) AA memorandum on “air signs”—evidently the typeface used was proposed for traffic signs; (3) French road code book; (4) various drafts of various parts of the report; (5) miscellaneous file correspondence regarding protocol and implementation; and (6) correspondence with members and representative bodies. At bare minimum, the Report is worth photographing. Less sure about the file as a whole, though of course certain documents are well worth photographing. Let’s be selective.

MT 34/266

This file deals with the run-up to issuance of the 1921 circular on standardization of road direction posts and signs. Apparently there was an (informal, departmental) traffic signs committee which studied proposals developed under Maybury’s guidance. The auto clubs submitted representations as to the preferred forms for standardization. Andre Michelin also submitted a representation, at Killick’s invitation, describing his own efforts to secure a logical road numbering system in France, and putting forward A for first-class roads and B for second-class roads as an example of how a British numbering scheme could be set up. (It is not at all clear that A or B had already been selected as part of the separate classification effort which began in the Road Board days.) There are also drafts galore, and correspondence between Maybury and Geddes—Geddes wants to know what is being done, and queries black background for A-road cartouches.

This whole file is worth photographing, despite not having a clean copy of Circular 291 (which I think I have anyway, in a separate file).

MT 95/301

This is a plans folder, consisting largely of review plans for bridges on the M4 Maidenhead Bypass, including a rather long structure across the Thames at the Berks/Bucks county boundary.

MT 95/831

This is the Hendon Urban Motorway signs file—it consists mostly of draft plans (in an envelope) plus correspondence between the Ministry and the consultants for the stretch, WS Atkins. I wanted to have second sight of it, so I could see whether it was worth photographing. It is not, although there is much file correspondence dealing with tight curves on entry (from Scratchwood Services?), including a mention of a RRL research program into curve advisory signs. The curve advisory sign then in use said “Maximum speed” on two lines, but was otherwise more or less exactly identical to the current one, which I think says just “Max speed.”