Tax change may drive up traffic

Speed Reduction: Local authorities are considering reducing the speed limit on rural roads from 60mph to 40mph, like here on the A621 Baslow to Totley road after a series of fatal collisions in the county.

Speed Reduction: Local authorities are considering reducing the speed limit on rural roads from 60mph to 40mph, like here on the A621 Baslow to Totley road after a series of fatal collisions in the county.

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Plans to introduce an extra charge for motorists wanting to use Britain’s motorways and main A roads could have a “negative impact” on the Peak District, the authority has warned.

Last month it was reported that George Osborne, the chancellor, is considering a levy on motorists in an attempt to unlock investment in the creaking highway network – following a model that is widely used in Europe.

While there are no firm proposals just yet, Peak Park transport policy manager Tim Nicholson fears the area could see increased levels of traffic as motorists avoid main roads to escape the charge.

He said: “We are surrounded by large urban areas including Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Derby and Stoke. Any charges on the major roads that link these centres would be likely to displace traffic onto local roads in and around the Peak District National Park.”

He added that increased traffic could have a negative impact on the “special qualities” of the Peaks, including visual intrusion, increased traffic pollution, loss of amenity in villages and more noise and vibration.

“In addition, road maintenance would become more costly for the various highway authorities that cover the Peak District,” he said.

Patrick McLoughlin, MP for the Derbyshire Dales and Secretary of State for Transport, said: “I think a lot of excitement’s been made about this as there are no firm proposals at the moment.

“We are always looking at ways in which the motorist pays for the use of the roads. But whatever [policy] I decide on, I would not be looking at anything that makes the motorist any worse off than they already are.”

But the future of the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales could be considerably worse off if the proposals were implemented.

For example, trips from London to Manchester, Nottingham to Preston, Sheffield to Birmingham and Lincoln to Liverpool could all be diverted through the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District National Park if the plans were implemented.