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Work began this week on widening the footway in Pelham Place, one of the Active Travel schemes going ahead in East Sussex (photo: Russell Jacobs).

ESCC’s Active Travel package hit hard by local opposition

In the face of local opposition East Sussex County Council’s package of walking and cycling schemes funded under the government’s Active Travel programme has been substantially reduced – only five out of 16 schemes are definitely going ahead while the fate of another two has still to be decided. Proposals for second round funding have been submitted. Nick Terdre reports.

Seven schemes funded by the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund were given the go-ahead by Cllr Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for transport and environment, in mid August. However, three of these were subject to consultation – the process is still under way for two of them but for the third it has been completed and the decision taken to drop the scheme.

The council is obliged to consult with statutory consultees, such as the emergency services and bus operators, a council spokesperson told HOT, adding,  “But we also considered it appropriate to consult with those most directly impacted by the measures or the associated changes to parking arrangements.”

In the event the consultation with traders and other local interests evoked sufficient opposition to cause many of the schemes to be dropped.

“Measures that do not offer sufficient benefit, have a negative impact on businesses and do not have overwhelming support from the local community will not go ahead,” ESCC told HOT.

Surviving schemes

The four schemes which will definitely be implemented are footway widening on the south side of the A259 between Pelham Place and the Stade in Hastings and in Buckhurst Place in Bexhill, a temporary road closure in Eastbourne and signage on the Cuckoo Trail in Wealden.

Consultation with Hailsham town council on a temporary road closure produced negative feedback so this scheme has now been dropped, ESCC said. The two schemes still subject to local consultation are cycles routes on two roads in Eastbourne.

One scheme – refreshing the markings on an advisory cycle lane in Cooden Drive, Bexhill, did not involve consultation and has already been completed.

A social distancing reminder at the Christ Church bus stop in St Leonards.

County-wide measures are unaffected. Social distancing signage has already been applied at town centre bus stops and other busy places, and temporary cycle parking facilities will also be installed at various locations.

Headache for Shapps

Local opposition then appears to have scuppered transport minister Grant Shapps’ hopes that the Emergency Active Travel Fund would give a big boost to cycling and walking, at least in East Sussex. How to reconcile the disparate interests should be high on the agenda for authorities at both national and local level.

Altogether ESCC was allocated £535,145 for 16 local schemes, in Hastings, Bexhill, Rye, Eastbourne, Lewes, Newhaven and Wealdon, and the county-wide measures in the first round of funding.

Spending on the surviving parts of the programme will now amount to “more than” £350,000, according to ESCC, meaning that about one third of the county’s funding allocation will be foregone.

Among the schemes which have been dropped are one calling for footway widening on the north side of the A259 between Warrior Square and London Road in St Leonards. According to an officers’ report, the validity of the scheme was questioned by an unidentified HBC councillor, while a furniture business objected to losing loading/unloading ability outside their shop. “The traders’ comments are key to the acceptability of any scheme,” the report states.

Footway widening on Grand Parade between Warrior Square and London Road in St Leonards has been dropped.

Two schemes in Bexhill and one in Rye were also discarded, all involving the loss of parking in shopping streets.

Striking a balance

Following the meeting at which go-ahead for the seven schemes was given, Cllr Dowling said, “With the timescale and criteria for acceptable schemes set by Government, we are limited in what we can achieve but are working hard to strike a careful balance between keeping the public safe and supporting businesses in their recovery.”

The Tranche 1 schemes, which are supposed to be in place by early September, will remain for only a temporary period of around three months.

Meanwhile ESCC has submitted a package of measures to secure £1.6 million in the second round of the Emergency Active Travel Fund. These are permanent schemes intended be in place by March 2021.

“The second tranche of funding will enable authorities to install further, more permanent measures to cement walking and cycling habits, and where applicable enable the implementation of schemes identified in the draft East Sussex Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan,” a council spokesperson told HOT. “We expect to hear shortly which measures have been approved by the DfT.”

They include a School Streets initiative to help more parents and pupils make the journey to school by bike or on foot. HOT hears there are likely to be a few dropped kerbs but no major works in Hastings. A proposal for bike racks at eight new locations was made to ESCC by community group Hastings Urban Bikes.

A consultation is soon to be launched on the county council’s draft local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, according to Cllr Dowling.

Meanwhile road vehicle usage is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels. In the seven days to 1 September car usage was 92.4% of  the level in the equivalent days in the first week of February, and all vehicle usage 93.9%. Rail usage remained low at 35.6%.

The incidence of cycling at times fluctuates wildly, perhaps responding partly to the weather – on 25 September it dropped to 44% of the equivalent day in the first week of March (cycling data refers only to England), but in the seven days to 1 September it averaged 121.4%.

 

Full details of measures for the first and second round of Active Travel funding can be found here.

 

Posted 11:44 Friday, Sep 4, 2020 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

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  1. Bea

    And another thing…
    Walking around Hastings is made more difficult by the inadequate pedestrian provision at many road junctions. Doing something about that would be a real improvement, and they could start with access to the sea front from the town centre which would not force people to use the underpass, which pedestrians don’t trust. Also repainting some of the zebra crossing markings which have been worn out over the years. And how about some more pedestrian refuges to allow people to cross busy roads one lane at a time?
    It’s not rocket science…

    Comment by Bea — Monday, Sep 7, 2020 @ 11:05

  2. Bea

    There are measures to help cyclists which should not be controversial, such as advance stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights, or widening cycle access through road closures. I don’t see these simple but effective measures being proposed. Nor do I see anything to help new cyclists learn how to use the roads (one cyclist I saw veered suddenly from a pavement onto a zebra crossing without looking behind, an accident waiting to happen).
    There is too much emphasis on promoting pavement and park cycling, as well as removing parking and vehicle access – hardly surprising there is opposition to the schemes they are putting forward. How about a bit of strategic thinking?

    Comment by Bea — Monday, Sep 7, 2020 @ 11:01

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