Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Tory MP who touted 15-minute city conspiracy in Parliament claims cycling routes have turned city into a "ghost town"

Nick Fletcher MP has previously attacked 15-minute cities with conspiracy theories and claimed cycling infrastructure is “rarely used” and “takes away from drivers”

Conservative MP for Don Valley Nick Fletcher is no stranger when it comes to criticising cycling infrastructure, having previously attacked 15-minute cities with conspiracy theories in Parliament before telling a disabled veteran that cycling infrastructure is "rarely used". This time, Fletcher has compared Doncaster to a "ghost town" after the unveiling of new active travel routes in the city, and condemned the transport decisions in Parliament.

Speaking at the House of Commons yesterday, Fletcher criticised the increase of active travel routes in Doncaster city centre.

He said: "Active travel is an important policy for this government. Cycle paths are one part of that programme. However, when cycle paths are designed poorly, as is the case in Doncaster, they can be detrimental to the town and to the city.

"Can we have a debate on disastrous town planning and what can be done to reverse this trend before cities like Doncaster become ghost towns?"

> Conservative MP claims cycling infrastructure is "rarely used" and "takes away from drivers and pedestrians"

Leader of the House, Conservative MP Penny Mourdant, replied saying that the Government is committed to ensuring that half of all journeys in towns and cities are either "walked or cycled" by 2030, and enable more choice about how people get around.

"That's good for them, that's good for the environment. We have invested over £600 million into active travel which is a record amount of funding, with further investment coming in this financial year," she said.

"But it's only a good thing if the local authorities are spending that money well and things are being designed well," she added, before saying that she will make sure that the 'relevant department' hear Fletcher's concerns and take steps to mitigate them, as she concluded the short-lived debate.

Earlier this week, Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) unveiled new active travel routes in the city centre. The £1.6 million project is aiming to provide over 800 metres of cycle lanes, linking South Parade with areas such as Bennetthorpe and Hall Gate.

Fletcher also shared his speech on Twitter, writing: "I am truly concerned about the effect badly planned and designed cycle paths are having on our town/city centre in Doncaster."

"Cycle paths, pedestrianisation and poor bus planning are slowly choking our wonderful city centre. Only a Labour council would mess up what should be a great addition to the way our community enjoys getting about for work or pleasure."

"I asked the Leader of the House today for a debate in Parliament on how to reverse this trend before our beloved Doncaster becomes a ghost town."

> Tory MP attacks 15-minute city concept with known conspiracy theory

In February, Fletcher, the first Tory MP to represent Don Valley in Doncaster, used known conspiracy theories about 15-minute cities while speaking in Parliament. He demanded a debate on the "international socialist concept of so-called 15-minute cities", and said that the schemes could "take away our personal freedom".

"Sheffield is already on this journey and I do not want Doncaster, which is also a Labour-run socialist council, to do the same," he added to laughs and jeers in the House of Commons, but was backed by Penny Mordaunt who said concerns about these kind of policies are legitimate.

Fletcher also penned a thread on Twitter, which was fact checked by Reuters' Nick Hardinges who noted that in the case of Oxford there would not be any physical barriers in the six proposed trial zones.

And then a few months later in May, he was once again a part of controversy after claiming that cycling infrastructure in his Doncaster constituency is "rarely used" and "takes away from drivers and pedestrians".

The reply came after a road.cc reader had sent Mr Fletcher one of Cycling UK's pre-written letters regarding funding for local cycling infrastructure.

In the letter, the MP said that he "would have to disagree that the cycling needs of the residents of Doncaster are being ignored" and that the city centre is "filled" with infrastructure that is not used and "takes away" from other road users.

"I am a disabled veteran," the reader who had sent the letter to Fletcher told road.cc. "Previously, in 2022, I had written to Mr Fletcher regarding problems with disabled scooter and wheelchair access to certain parks and recreational grounds in the village where I live. A letter which Mr Fletcher simply chose to ignore.

"This time Mr Fletcher found the time to reply to my letter. Please note that Mr Fletcher has never been seen riding a bicycle anywhere in the district and doesn't give any evidence supporting in his reply!"

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

Add new comment

32 comments

Avatar
sheridan | 9 months ago
2 likes

Where I used to live I could get to the local town centre - which featured a mix of large supermarkets and smaller, local shops - within five minutes.  We used to go shopping locally most weekends and some weekdays.

Where I live now the local town centre is about twenty minutes away though has less of a mix of shops, as all the large shops are in three out-of-town centres about an hour's walk away.  Realistically we can't do all our shopping locally.  We do not shop during the week and try to do larger shops every couple of weekends, if we get the chance as it takes longer just travelling one way than it used to take doing entire small shops from leaving to getting back home.  We're forced in to doing more online shops than I'd prefer.

What was the argument about 15 minute cities creating ghost towns?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to sheridan | 9 months ago
0 likes

Yep.  Culture change of course, but in many places (the urban places where most of us live) it's still quite possible with a slight change (maybe cycle - add some panniers, and maybe go twice every week instead of once).

Apparently the entire population of Utrecht (368000) can reach all necessary amenities by bike within 15 minutes, and most can within 10 minutes.  Now, that's a reasonably large place, and quite dense also.  The bulk of the UK populace is urban however.

More informative preaching here (for the "but that would be taking us back to the stone age!" worriers).

Avatar
Owd Big 'Ead | 9 months ago
4 likes

Being a red wall Tory in situ from 2019, Mr Fletcher is probably unaware that what did for Doncaster was the decisions of a previous Prime Minister way back in the 1980's.

Maggie Thatcher ripped the heart out of the town, along with so many other towns, when she decreed the end of the UK mining industry and vast swathes of other manufacturing across the country.

Places like Doncater, Chesterfield, Barnsley have never recovered. How anyone thinks replacing skilled labour with warehouse jobs in distribution centres is moving forward is anybodies guess.

Avatar
neilmck | 9 months ago
0 likes

He does have point, in the photos you can Doncaster council have put cobble stones down for a cycle path.

Avatar
Sriracha | 10 months ago
0 likes

(Deleted, posted in wrong place - reposted it below)

Avatar
Oldfatgit | 10 months ago
8 likes

So ... what's happened to what was a thriving market, a thriving meat and fish market ... a traditional town centre where a shopping centre doesn't take precedence over small independent traders?
Has the arrival of that great big college and the expansion of the town centre shopping centre, and all that new housing been all for nothing?
All put at risk by a few meters of cycle path?

I wonder if all the out of town expansion of retail parks, business parks, industrial estates and distribution centres have had been more to do with it?

Avatar
Eton Rifle | 10 months ago
13 likes

Doncaster turned into a ghost town by 800 metres of cycle path.

The sooner these corrupt clowns are out of government, the better.

Avatar
Pub bike replied to Eton Rifle | 9 months ago
0 likes

Doncaster has a long history of corruption.  Don't expect anything to change anytime soon.

Avatar
Rome73 | 10 months ago
5 likes

 

"Cycle paths, pedestrianisation and poor bus planning are slowly choking our wonderful city centre'

Even 'wonderful' is a fib. 

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 10 months ago
4 likes

What a load of blabbering crap. One photo is judgement?
You're just trying to get a more senior tory job. Akin to your buddy, Grant.

You're doing a Shatts...

Avatar
perce | 10 months ago
7 likes

Is that the chairperson and treasurer of the Evil Cycling Lobby in that photo?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to perce | 10 months ago
4 likes
perce wrote:

Is that the chairperson and treasurer of the Evil Cycling Lobby in that photo?

Could be, but don't we pick one randomly at each meeting to be extra evil?

I think we're trying to take on board some of the Energy Vampire Council's tactics to foil anyone trying to sabotage the meetings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ThLeM1Bu9k

Avatar
perce replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
2 likes

I've been in meetings like that.

Avatar
LeadenSkies | 10 months ago
8 likes

Do I smell a rat? Blowing up the photo he used to illustrate his tweet seems to show 2 cyclists exiting the side road, several pedestrians, 3 parked cars in the distance, and a whole street of what look suspiciously like closed shops although I could be wrong.

If I am right, who would have thought a street would be nearly empty when the shops were shut.

Avatar
ubercurmudgeon | 10 months ago
12 likes

Has Mr. Fletcher considered that it might only seem like a ghost town to him, because word gets out whenever the useless, Johnson toadying, culture-war-bullshit-spouting MP is in town, and people stay home to avoid him?

Avatar
David9694 | 10 months ago
1 like

I've been to Hereford a couple of times in recent years and can report: (i) that it's town centre retail and eatery offer is pretty buoyant (ii) its centre is pretty cycle friendly and reasonably car-lite.  There's a quiet prosperity there and it would be interesting to understand what factors are at play there. 

Other county towns that I know well have, over the past few years, acquired the Ghost Town feel the councillor is worried about.  In one case, sizeable buildings (for which older ones were demolished 100 years ago) now all standing empty - M&S, Woolworth's, BHS, Debenhams, Beales - no bustle like I remember.  Bath, Exeter, which I only know as a visitor, similar story. 

I used to work in car-infested Reading - The Oracle centre had Debenhams, House of Fraser as well as the John Lewis in Broad Street - The Oracle really sounds like it too is struggling these days:

https://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/23667158.oracle-reading-store-ch...

In Bournemouth, like so many other places, drivers say they are feeling the pinch from increased parking charges and make all sorts of claims that this is "killing the town" etc. Yes, you read that right, the absence of people who are loudly grumbling about paying £3 to park is what's killing off the town. 

Avatar
eburtthebike | 10 months ago
10 likes

"However, when cycle paths are designed poorly, as is the case in Doncaster, they can be detrimental to the town and to the city."

To be fair, he's got a point, and while I don't know the infra he's talking about, most of it in the UK isn't fit for purpose.

"Earlier this week, Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) unveiled new active travel routes in the city centre. The £1.6 million project is aiming to provide over 800 metres of cycle lanes,...."

Well, they must be up to the best possible standard at £2000/m.  Surely they will be?  They have to be don't they?

 

Avatar
Pub bike | 10 months ago
20 likes

If it is anything like where I live it is a ghost town because:

- the rise of online shopping means many people have no reason to go there

- the roads are choked with gridlocked cars and just crossing the road to get to the shop on the other side of the high street is either an exercise in extreme patience using crossings overwhelmingly biased against pedestrians or a daring escapade offering way too much risk and excitement

In other words it has nothing to do with cyclists or cycling infrastructure.

Avatar
bikes replied to Pub bike | 10 months ago
5 likes

And no one wants to stay longer than they have to if the environment is unpleasant ie; full of vehicle traffic.

I think this guy wants quiet roads on the way in to town and no traffic when you get there, free parking right outside the door of every business, and for it to be a nice place to hang out in as well. And possibly free refills at the petrol station?

Avatar
Cugel replied to Pub bike | 10 months ago
3 likes
Pub bike wrote:

If it is anything like where I live it is a ghost town because:

- the rise of online shopping means many people have no reason to go there

- the roads are choked with gridlocked cars and just crossing the road to get to the shop on the other side of the high street is either an exercise in extreme patience using crossings overwhelmingly biased against pedestrians or a daring escapade offering way too much risk and excitement

In other words it has nothing to do with cyclists or cycling infrastructure.

Just so.

Toryspiv and their familiars have been turning Britain into a failed State for decades now, begining with The Thatcher Thing's promotion of parasitical financial capitalism over the production of real goods and services. Privatisation of public servics and the off-shoring of manufacturing facilities (with the resultant loss of jobs, careers and other traditional means of distributing income) has reduced a large swathe of the population to penury. Degradation of towns and cities was an inevitable consequence.

The rabid individualism promoted by Toryspiv and their neoliberal economics has, amongst other ills, promoted the car as an emblem of "freedom" and independence. In reality they are major polluters and drains on personal wealth .... but useful for isolating people from each other and setting them against "the others" - not just cyclists and pedestrians but other car drivers too.

Isolated wee ciphers in their tin boxes, distracted by road wars and car one-upmanship from the continual robberies of everyone by Toryspiv and pals.

The so-called "Conservative and Unionist Pary" have in fact become the exact opposite. Britain is far from unified and conditions of life are destroyed continuously in favour of greater "opportunities" for some "entrepreneur" to extract vast wealth from trashing anything and everything, from town centres to rivers to whole communities of people.

************

All the little pretend-improvements such as cycle paths are drastically inadequate tokens created like badly-painted scenery in a third rate theatre of the absurd. In a proper nation, constructed and run for actual citizens rather than subjects or serfs, we wouldn't need such drossy new pretend-improvements such as "cycing infrastructure", as the roads would be maintained for all, including the removal of infestations of killer cars driven by the mad denizens of the Toryspiv Hobbesian State of Nature.

 

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Pub bike | 10 months ago
3 likes

Yeah, designers of shopping malls are missing a trick or two here - they need to clear out the throngs of pedestrians clogging up the arcades and walkways to make way for the introduction of vehicular traffic along the shop frontages. That's what people want. I'm astonished nobody has noticed this before.

(Sorry, posted this in the wrong place earlier!)

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:

Yeah, designers of shopping malls are missing a trick or two here - they need to clear out the throngs of pedestrians clogging up the arcades and walkways to make way for the introduction of vehicular traffic along the shop frontages. That's what people want. I'm astonished nobody has noticed this before. (Sorry, posted this in the wrong place earlier!)

Or, how about we move the shops into the multi-storey car parks? Little pop-up food stalls every other parking bay.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Or, how about we move the shops into the multi-storey car parks? Little pop-up food stalls every other parking bay.

Ooh, I can see a synergy here! Perhaps we could even have a these cycling round the inside of a roundabout with cars travelling on the outside while purchasing wares?

After all, other places have floating markets...

Avatar
Hamster | 10 months ago
12 likes

The Honourable Gentleman should remember 'tis better to remain silent and thought a fool. . .

Avatar
Safety | 10 months ago
10 likes

Typical diversionary and divisionary tactics of the ruling party, blaming the death of the twin centre on cycle lanes. When town centres have been dieing across the land for a couple of decades. The reasons being many and complex. But I'd be willing to debate with him that cycle lanes are way down the list.

Avatar
Clem Fandango | 10 months ago
6 likes

Somebody's worried about his job....

Avatar
Gloucester_Dave replied to Clem Fandango | 10 months ago
11 likes

While he's undoubtedly an idiot, he did target, specifically, badly designed and built cycle infrastructure. Which is probably fair. Lots of it is put in as a massive compromise to protect drivists and so it's not usable or at least severely limited.
 

I'm in cheltenham and am frustrated by the amount the county council are spending - mostly as we seem to be getting such rubbish value for money. They're spending a lot. But so badly.
 

How do we get NAO to do some kind of investigation into the quality of cycle infrastructure getting built nationally? There is quite a lot of money being spent (reduced, granted) but we're not seeing much good quality for it. 

Avatar
Clem Fandango replied to Gloucester_Dave | 10 months ago
7 likes

yeah there is that.  No mention of that "other" traffic though - the reason a lot of the funding gets spend badly (everywhere) is partly due to it being designed by non-users & partly (I reckon) because it's often done half heartedly to tick a few boxes & not upset the vehicle users too much (I am one ofthose too).

I've yet to see a cycle lane, however badly designed actually shut down a city centre though....

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Clem Fandango | 10 months ago
6 likes
Clem Fandango wrote:

yeah there is that.  No mention of that "other" traffic though - the reason a lot of the funding gets spend badly (everywhere) is partly due to it being designed by non-users & partly (I reckon) because it's often done half heartedly to tick a few boxes & not upset the vehicle users too much (I am one ofthose too).

If your problem is "crap cycle infra" then the answer is not "no cycle infra" - it's "proper cycle infra".  That is connected, goes where people want to go fairly directly, where there's secure parking at destinations, is convenient, safe (in several ways) and (if you would like to encourage more than say 5% share of trips by bike) allows for social cycling - just like walking, driving, taking the bus or train etc..

Often these schemes are hamstrung at the outset.  So there will be a condition that effectively nothing which reduces motor vehicle capacity will go ahead.  It's aiming below the target - at the beginning of an often protracted process which itself often sees further cuts and compromises etc.

Is the scheme too cheap, too limited?  It's not just wasting money, but making further change harder.  If not convenient current cyclists won't bother and if not "safe" and convenient few new cyclists will be tempted.  Then everyone will say "see - we built it and they didn't come".

The elephant in the room of course is that "attractiveness" and "convenience" are relative.  At some point to shift mode use (and further improve cycling conditions) for some trips driving needs to become less convenient.

Avatar
brooksby | 10 months ago
22 likes
Quote:

Nick Fletcher MP has ... claimed cycling infrastructure ... “takes away from drivers”

And drivers have taken away space from everyone else.

What's his point?

Pages

Latest Comments