Suffolk hopes for cycle funds despite minister’s warning to councils
PUBLISHED: 14:02 19 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:42 19 October 2020
Hopes remain of a cash boost for improving cycling in Suffolk - despite a broadside from a cabinet minister claiming many new road layout schemes in England “weren’t good enough”.
A letter was sent from transport secretary Grant Shapps to councils across the country as his officials start considering bids for further changes to encourage “active transport” – cycling and walking – in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
In it, he warns councils that if their proposed schemes do not have widespread public support, their funding will be cut and handed to areas that can prove they have listened to voters.
He said: “Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with other road uses, including motorists and local businesses.
“Only authorities who have passed these key tests will receive the funding they have asked for.”
Earlier this year, the government provided funding for emergency work across the country, including in Suffolk where changes were made to road networks in major towns.
In his letter, Mr Shapps said: “There were a significant minority of cases where schemes were frankly nowhere near good enough.
“A notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with the needs of their communities.”
Suffolk County Council transport manager Carl Ashton said Suffolk had been praised by the government for its schemes, which were brought in under emergency powers and had to be installed before consultation could take place.
He said: “We are now waiting to hear about our allocation and then we can go ahead and draw up detailed proposals which we will be consulting on.”
He said individual schemes would have their own consultation programmes.
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The Department for Transport was hoping schemes would be underway by the end of the financial year – at the start of April – but Mr Ashton warned it was probably impractical to think they would be completed by then.
He said it was important that they should get as much popular support as possible – and said many projects got widespread backing from communities, as well as the cycling lobby.
He said: “I know that in areas like Westbury Road (off Colchester Road) local residents have welcomed the fact that it is much quieter without the through traffic.”
There was a similar welcome for the changes from people living near Milner Street behind Suffolk New College.
Labour county councillor Sandra Gage organised surveys in Westbury Road, Norbury Road and Leopold Road.
She found that among neighbours, there was widespread support for the moves.
She said: “My concern about this is the way it was done.
“The government gave councils the money and the emergency powers – and told them to introduce trial measures before consultation.
“As someone who worked in highways for years, I know how difficult these decisions are. I lobbied for the Westbury Road area to be included because residents have been worried about rat-running.
“But I know there are always objections to road changes and you have to carry people with you.
“There were questions about why the work had been done at first, but now people are accepting it – both those living on the roads and on other nearby roads.”
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