September 17 2014 Latest news:
Jon Vale, West Suffolk reporter
Saturday, July 12, 2014
The decision to turn down almost £1 million of funding to boost cycling in Bury St Edmunds has been branded “absolutely appalling” by one county councillor.
The Department for Transport (DfT) this week rejected the bid from Suffolk County Council for funding from its local sustainable transport fund.
The DfT’s £800,000 contribution would have funded initiatives at schools and local businesses to get people cycling, with similar programmes seeing big improvements in cycling across Ipswich and Lowestoft in recent years.
Bury’s Green Party county councillor, Mark Ereira-Guyer, said: “My fury about it is a lot of work has gone into a really sound proposal, to come up with a sustainable plan for the town that links in schools, businesses and the college.
“For the Government to basically refuse to support that I think is absolutely appalling. It’s west Suffolk being let down, and Bury St Edmunds in particular.”
The scheme had the backing of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and social housing providers, Havebury.
The county council’s bid had targeted a 10% increase in cycling, while reducing car journeys across the town by 15% could have saved more than £1m on things such as repairs and infrastructure, as well as indirect savings on noise and air pollution.
The DfT awarded funding to 44 projects across the country, and a spokesman said: “The quality of bids we received was high, but this was a competitive bidding process and not all schemes were funded.”
Independent county and borough council David Nettleton, who has been a driving force in improving sustainable transport around the town, said he has urged council officers to draft a plan for the scheme anyway and see if funding can be found elsewhere.
“What we need to be doing is doing our utmost to deliver a sustainable travel plan for the present and future,” Mr Nettleton said.
“Obviously with 5,000 new homes coming in the next 20 years, we need to move people in, out and around Bury so they’re not caught in congestion.
“What we don’t need to do is say ‘oh, it’s the Government again’ –that’s not my view on how to deal with any issue. Funding isn’t unlimited from central Government.
“I’m disappointed, but it doesn’t stop me being optimistic.”
Government has invested £1m towards the cycle bridge over the A14 linking Northgate Avenue to Thingoe Hill.
A spokesman from the county council said: “We are disappointed that we have not achieved a successful bid, however we will continue to work with the local businesses, schools and colleges to encourage sustainable travel in Bury with funds available.
“The recent award of funding within the local enterprise partnership’s strategic economic plan will provide funding for improvements to sustainable transport in Bury St Edmunds.”