Worcestershire County Council has again been left disappointed following the allocation of the second tranche of emergency active travel funding. The authority received only half the money it bid for in the first tranche, with campaigners saying its proposals 'missed the point'. Having apparently failed to learn lessons from this, it will now receive only £649,000 of its second £1m bid.
Writing to council leaders last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps threatened to give “considerably less” money in the second wave of funding to councils that proposed substandard schemes.
“We are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes, which will create sweeping changes to communities, without consultation, and ones where the benefits to cycling and walking do not outweigh the dis-benefits for other road users,” he said.
Worcestershire received £135,500 in the first round of funding, having bid for £271,000.
Councillor Alan Amos, the council’s cabinet member for highways, came in for strong criticism for this from campaigners, with many concerned at his view of the rise in cycling during lockdown as ‘just a phase’.
Danny Brothwell, chairman of Bike Worcester, told Worcester News he was unsurprised that the county had again missed out on funding.
“The government made it very clear what the funding was and wasn’t for,” he said. “The biggest disappointment is that after only getting half the money in the first round the county council didn’t manage to put forward fully acceptable schemes in the second.
“Along with the funding decision, Grant Shapps has issued additional guidance which means the county council should consult more widely with local stakeholders before implementing any schemes.
“Hopefully this time Bike Worcester, our Cycling UK and Sustrans partners, along with other cycling advocacy groups in the county will be consulted. I’m sure the last thing anybody wants are half baked schemes that do little to encourage more to walk and cycle for their shorter journeys.
“Active travel is front and centre in the Local Transport Plan LTP4, but this is further evidence that the leadership at the county council show little signs that they genuinely want to enable, encourage and incentivise active travel, and for us all to make less journeys by car, for the benefit of everyone.”
Amos’s position on cycling is understandably under scrutiny, having also pushed for the 2018 ban on cycling in Worcester city centre.
Speaking at the time, he said that those who rode bikes in the area were “dangerous and selfish” and “wretched people.”
The hours of the ban were recently extended, a move he described as “long overdue.”
A leaked document also stated that county council leaders had refused to give up any road or parking space to cyclists in the second bid.
"The document that was allegedly leaked is not an accurate description of this council’s approach, which is to promote all modes of transport at the detriment of none," said Amos.
Commenting on the £351,000 withheld from Worcestershire in the latest round of funding, he said: “Whilst we are disappointed that we did not get the full amount we bid for as part of the second tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund, we still now have nearly £650,000 more to spend on walking and cycling improvements in Worcestershire which is great news.
"We’ll be looking at our proposals and prioritising delivery of the schemes that will make the most long term impact to walking and cycling routes in our county."