We’re promised millions from government, but will money ever arrive?

PUBLISHED: 05:59 29 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:23 29 October 2020

The car park at the Stoke Bridge entrance to the Waterfront could be transformed into a green open space.  Picture CHARLOTTE BOND

The car park at the Stoke Bridge entrance to the Waterfront could be transformed into a green open space. Picture CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

This week we had confirmation of the 15 Ipswich projects that are being put forward to the government for funding from the £25m Town Deal funding that is due to come this way from the scheme that was announced just before the General Election was called last year.

Part of the cycle route runs along the River Gipping. Picture: PAUL GEATERPart of the cycle route runs along the River Gipping. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Having looked through all the proposed schemes, they all look very worthwhile. Some actually look quite exciting – like developing the Stoke Bridge entrance to the Waterfront and planting trees to help Ipswich become a green town centre.

MORE: Town Deal projects backed

But deep in my soul a little voice keeps whispering: “Are we really going to get £25m to spend on our town, and if we do will it really be able to improve it as these schemes would suggest?”

When I look at the haggling we are seeing with much bigger areas facing tough lockdown restrictions. When I see the government shying away from a £20m national scheme to pay for children to have free meals during school holidays. When I see that Ipswich council is now facing a huge cash crisis that is being replicated in local authorities across the country, I wonder if any minister is really going to give us millions to create a new green area near Stoke Bridge or to tidy up Arras Square.

I do wonder if the amount of money that will come to places like Ipswich for new projects will be cut – or at least not ring-fenced with a suggestion that the local council might like to use some of it to tide over its immediate cash crisis.

Of course, I may be unnecessarily gloomy. Why should anyone feel gloomy in 2020? And if all the funding does come our way, and it is enough to cover all the projects put forward then I will be delighted.

There is also some other spending that is supposed to be coming to the town – and to Suffolk as a whole – to improve the lot of cyclists and pedestrians and encourage more “active travel.”

MORE: Suffolk bids for more money for cycle routes

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Here again I feel money is badly needed, but I do wonder just how realistic it is to expect us to benefit much from it.

As someone who has been cycling a lot more this year, I am starting to get a bit more confident on my bike – but I’ve also to see some obvious improvements that could be made to encourage more to follow suit.

And my attitude is changing a bit – I’m starting to see the benefit of small changes rather than big, expensive, expansive projects.

I live quite near the National Route 51 bike route in north west Ipswich. It’s the route from Oxford to Felixstowe but the bit that interests me is the stretch from the Old Norwich Road on the edge of Ipswich to the town centre.

The cycle route is largely along secondary roads like Shakespeare Road, Highfield Road and Bramford Lane – but does cross some busier roads like Norwich Road and Bramford Road. There’s also a good stretch along the River Gipping.

The issue is that on these roads there may be pedestrian crossings (some, but not all, have cycle symbols as well) that invite cyclists to use them and fading signs on wide pavements that say they should be shared by pedestrians and cyclists.

What is needed here is clarity about where cyclists should travel and, especially on the busy roads with wide pavements, clear indications that they are entitled to stay off the main carriageway with traffic.

There are also some quite convoluted, and confusing, manoeuvres that cyclists are expected to undertake to cross busy roads – like at the Highfield Approach junction on Norwich Road and the Riverside Road/Bramford Road traffic lights.

What I’m talking about here is a cycle route that is supposed to have some importance. It’s National Route 51. It would be good to have some signs that road users – drivers as well as cyclists and pedestrians – could see so those in cars going along Bramford Lane or Highfield Road don’t regard the bike in front of them as an unnecessary irritant.

The funding for that isn’t going to come from the Town Deal – but Suffolk County Council is supposed to be bidding for more from the government for active travel and it is the kind of project they should be looking at.

My fear here again is that all the bright ambitions at the start of lockdown of transforming travel seem to have dissipated somewhat. The idea of getting out and making life easier for those who want to use cycles or walk has gone. Now the bean-counters are asking whether we really should spend money on schemes only of value to a minority of road users.

That is a shame because I still think there’s an opportunity to get more people on their bikes again – and that would be good news on so many levels.

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