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Pop-up cycle lanes in Bury St Edmunds will face full public scrutiny before going-ahead

Residents and business will be 'fully' consulted before any future pop-up cycle lanes get underway, it has been announced.

This month all residents and businesses in Bury St Edmunds will receive an information leaflet detailing the schemes already completed, underway and now planned for next year.

The developments come after Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, warned councils nationwide he was “not prepared to tolerate” badly designed road closures or councils which imposed “sweeping changes” to communities without "effective" consultation.

The Risbygate Street cycles have been completed. Picture by Paul Derrick.
The Risbygate Street cycles have been completed. Picture by Paul Derrick.

Three sets of cycle lanes were planned including Risbygate Street, Beetons Way and Tollgate Lane, Looms Lane, Northgate Street, and Mustow Street.

Risbygate Street was completed in October, Beeton's Way and Tollgate Lane however hit a hitch following protests from Tollgate Lane residents claiming that they were "discriminatory", "hadn't been planned properly", and had been "rushed through".

Northgate Street, along with Looms Lane and Mustow Street, have now been moved forward to phase two of the development plans, for which the Suffolk County Council is finalising funding.

Councillor Diane Hind at the junction of Philip Road and Tollgate Lane. Picture by Mecha Morton
Councillor Diane Hind at the junction of Philip Road and Tollgate Lane. Picture by Mecha Morton

These future lanes will now face a full public consultation, before going ahead, with the council being given more time to complete them, by the Government.

Beetons Way and Tollgate Lanehowever, are still being developed under phase one 'emergency measures'- but with a call by the county council for more feedback as they progress.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, wrote to councils last month after schemes got underway around the country.

It followed a government call earlier in the year however for councils to work ‘at pace’, with those councils doing so, being most rewarded under the emergency Active Travel Fund.

Suffolk County Council was awarded £337,000 in the first tranche of funding. This was boosted in July to £376,501 because, according to the council, its proposals were "particularly strong".

The Bury St Edmunds cycle paths had been identified previously as part of a five-year-plan, and for possible permanent use, by a cross-party group, when the emergency funding became available earlier this year.

In phase one, the cycle lanes could be installed immediately on an 'emergency' six month trial basis, with full public feedback following later.

They were part of a national scheme to make cycling and walking 'easier and safer' during the pandemic.

Suffolk County Council had to build or commit all of the £376,501 to the lanes and developments by the end of October, or it had to be returned.

In his letter of October 16, addressed to all Local Transport Authority Leaders - Grant Shapps says however councils must “balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with the needs of other road users, including motorists and local businesses.”

It followed a national petition for the lanes to be scrapped.

He added there were many "badly designed schemes" nationwide and a “notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with their local communities.”

According to Shapps, there were “far too many instances where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left motor traffic backed up alongside them; of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres; and other issues that many have, rightly, reacted angrily, too.”

West Suffolk Cllr Diane Hind, Tollgate Ward, after receiving the information leaflet this week, said: "Looms Lane, Northgate Street and Mustow Street have been moved from phase one to phase two where a proper consultation will occur before the changes are made.

"In relation to Beetons Way and Tollgate Lane, the information leaflet implies that following feedback, the council will be contacting residents to discuss plans for the trial.

"Basically it is a case of read the leaflet, write in, and then they will come back and tell residents what they are going to do.

This is not the way to proceed and I believe that residents on both Mildenhall Roadand Howard Estates, and the local area, deserve a proper consultation the same as Northgate Street area.

"Therefore I request that Beetons Way and Tollgate Lane also be recategorized to phase two."

"In response to a country wide petition aimed at scrapping these pop-up schemes the Government stated that: “Effective engagement with the local community, particularly at an early stage, is essential to ensuring the political and public acceptance of any scheme.”

"This did not happen with any of the schemes on the leaflet, nor the aborted scheme of road closures in Cannon Street area."

Councillor Andrew Reid Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs, said: “People’s travel behaviour has transformed during the coronavirus pandemic as more choose to walk and cycle for their short journeys such as taking the children to school, commuting to work, visiting the park and going to the local shops.

"Since March, over 10 million people in England have regularly swapped a car journey for walking or cycling.

In Suffolk we have seen a 162 per cent increase in the number of people cycling in 2020 compared to the total number of people cycling in the whole of 2019.

“The Government is keen to lock in this positive change in behaviour and to achieve this aim we need to provide safe, accessible and joined-up walking and cycling routes.

"If we can encourage more people to travel actively, we can reduce congestion, improve the environment, and improve individuals’ health and wellbeing.

“The county council has undertaken a comprehensive review into cycling and has identified the routes which show the most potential for a growth in cyclists in Suffolk and those that deliver the best value for money.

"We have used the findings to identify the most impactful schemes in Bury St Edmunds to help encourage more people to walk and cycle.

“These schemes have and will be delivered on a trial basis and we are actively seeking feedback from local stakeholders through our online surveys.

We are, however, aware that concerns have been raised over the fast pace and short notice of these schemes and have reflected on how we can engage with local stakeholders better to promote the benefits of active travel and address the concerns that have been raised.

"A leaflet will be delivered to every household in Bury St Edmunds in November to ensure that local residents and businesses understand the benefits and can have an informed debate on the proposals.”

To give feedback on the the current schemes email: transport.schemes@suffolk.gov.uk

Further information on the measures the county council is proposing as well as work that has been undertaken click here .

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