Unexpectedly deserted low-traffic schemes may price councils funding | Transport

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Councils which rip out cycle lanes or low-traffic neighbourhoods earlier than giving them an opportunity to work or with out proof they’re failing may lose future central authorities funding, ministers have warned.

In an indication of the rising frustration inside authorities at some councils, each Conservative and Labour, which have eliminated energetic journey schemes within the face of generally noisy objections, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris is formally writing to the leaders of all English native authorities with transport tasks.

In separate feedback, Boris Johnson warned councils that he was severe about boosting energetic journey, saying that “making an attempt to squeeze extra vehicles and supply vans on the identical roads and hoping for the very best is just not going to work”.

“I help councils, of all events, which try to advertise biking and bus use,” the prime minister mentioned. “And if you will oppose these schemes, you could inform us what your various is.”

Heaton-Harris’s letter, being despatched on Friday, warns councils that if schemes put in utilizing central authorities cash, equivalent to funds supplied to spice up strolling and biking throughout Covid, are then swiftly deserted, this might have an effect on future grants.

“Untimely removing of schemes carries implications for the administration of the general public cash utilized in these schemes and for the federal government’s future funding relationship with the authorities accountable,” wrote Heaton-Harris.

“The division will proceed to evaluate authorities’ efficiency in delivering schemes and, following the precedent we now have already set, these which have prematurely eliminated or weakened such schemes ought to count on to obtain a diminished stage of funding.”

Underneath the federal government’s emergency energetic journey fund, councils put in lots of of cycle lanes, faculty streets and low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which search to filter residential streets towards through-traffic by motor automobiles.

Nevertheless, amid usually noisy objections from some residents, plus repeatedly detrimental media protection of such interventions, a collection of councils have eliminated schemes at quick discover.

Conservative-run West Sussex council has already been advised it can’t apply for the following section of energetic journey funding after it eliminated a cycle lane in Shoreham-by-Sea. Comparable lanes have been taken out by Labour-led Liverpool council, and by an alliance of Labour and Tory members in Brighton.

Some councils have additionally eliminated LTNs, such as Ealing in west London, though the funding for this got here from Transport for London reasonably than central authorities.

Within the letter, Heaton-Harris warns council leaders to ensure any choices are made on the idea of proof: “We’ve got no real interest in requiring councils to maintain schemes that are confirmed to not work, however that proof have to be offered. Schemes should not be eliminated prematurely, or with out correct proof and too quickly to gather correct proof about their results.”

It comes as newly launched government-commissioned polling confirmed obvious sturdy public help for LTNs, and for wider site visitors discount measures.

The analysis, carried out in Birmingham, Ipswich, Bournemouth and Salford, confirmed 61% of individuals supported their native LTN, together with 58% of enterprise homeowners and 49% of these with mobility challenges.

Extra typically, 79% of individuals backed the discount of site visitors of their native space, with 71% help for respondents with mobility challenges.

In his feedback, Johnson instantly tackled the cost from opponents of LTNs and comparable schemes that they merely transfer site visitors to different roads, saying: “After all some journeys by automobile are important, however site visitors is just not a power of nature. It’s a product of individuals’s decisions. In case you make it simpler and safer to stroll and cycle, extra individuals select to stroll and cycle as an alternative of driving, and the site visitors falls general.”

The letter and Johnson’s assertion emphasise the obvious coverage distinction divide over energetic journey between some councils and the extra constructive view inside Downing Road and the Division for Transport.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns for Biking UK, mentioned the organisation had been arguing for months that councils ought to give schemes sufficient time to work.

He mentioned: “It’s tragic that the Division for Transport has needed to challenge revised steerage to strengthen this apparent level, and councils in Liverpool, Brighton and elsewhere, who’ve determined in latest days to take away cycle lanes with out correct analysis, must urgently evaluate these plans.”

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