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Cycling UK threatens council with legal action over "unlawful" decision to keep rat-run open

The charity has penned a letter to Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) outlining its intention to challenge the decision to keep the route open to motor vehicles

Cycling UK has threatened a council with legal action if it will not reconsider its controversial decision to keep a known rat-run open to motor vehicles.

The Keyhole Bridge in Poole Park was closed to drivers under an experimental traffic restriction order (ETRO) in 2020 to improve active travel access during the pandemic. However, in December, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council ignored a public consultation showing the majority of residents supported the permanent closure, deciding to keep the underpass open to motor traffic.

Cycling UK has written a letter before action to the council, saying that the decision of 14 December was "unlawful" and failed to take into account statutory guidance issued to highway authorities under the Network Management Act 2004.

The charity says residents were "dismayed" by its reopening to motor traffic, with one local, Paul Bradley saying "children were able to cycle and travel safely" and he "can't understand" the decision "when all the evidence points to the benefits and popular opinion is in favour".

"Children were able to cycle and travel safely while KHB was closed," he said. "I felt safer too and without rat-running traffic the streets I call home became a better place to live with a growing sense of community.

"I can't understand when all the evidence points to the benefits and popular opinion is in favour [of closing KHB to motor traffic] why the council is stubbornly refusing to budge, ignoring the evidence, public opinion and government guidance."

BCP Council opted to reopen the route to motor vehicles in March 2021 due to its assessment that the closure would cause delays of around three minutes at peak times which, it turn, would result in an economic cost of £220,000 per year.

However, a report commissioned by the Keyhole Bridge Group and authored by independent body KMC Transport Planning concluded the decision to reopen was based on flawed analysis.

The analysis by KMC suggested that the closure could result in a positive financial impact of £8.5 million over a 20-year period.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, added: "It shouldn't be down to local groups or charities with limited resources to police council decision-making to ensure due process is followed, mounting legal challenges that rely on donations when councils act unlawfully.

"However, this is where we find ourselves with authorities like BCP Council persistently ignoring not just public opinion and expert analysis but also statutory guidance.

"As it stands this decision has no rational evidence base, which is why Cycling UK is asking the council to reconsider, on a lawful basis, their decision to keep Whitecliff Road open to motor traffic."

Commenting on the decision to reopen the route to traffic, Mike Greene, a portfolio holder for transport said the cabinet had "considered the views of all those who use this route for travel to work, school, or leisure, as well as the views of local ward councillors and all other evidence including the assessment reports appended to the cabinet report."

"On balance, cabinet considered that the benefits of retaining the access as it is outweighed the benefits of closing it to vehicular traffic," he said.

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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