Travel funding held back from Peterborough’s Combined Authority as Department of Transport question its commitment to active travel

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Combined Authority has had its Capability Funding withheld by the Department of Transport (DfT) after it questioned the body’s commitment to active travel.

By Ben Jones
Thursday, 5th August 2021, 4:55 am
The pop-up cycle lane has been removed from Crescent Bridge
The pop-up cycle lane has been removed from Crescent Bridge

Peterborough and Cambridgeshire was the only combined authority not to receive a penny from the government’s Capability Fund grants, which were announced on Friday (July 30).

The funding has been withheld until the DfT receives reassurances as to the authority’s commitment to active travel.

A spokesperson for the DfT said: “As set out in the Minister of State for Transport’s letter to local authorities on 30 July 2021, we have, in some cases, given the recent record of an authority (or a constituent member of a combined authority), halted all funding until we can be sure of the authority’s commitment to active travel.

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“This includes, though is not limited to, authorities which to our knowledge have prematurely removed active travel schemes. We hope to be able to resolve such issues as swiftly as possible with the authorities concerned.”

One of the main reasons this funding has been withheld appears to be the recent decision of Peterborough City Council to remove the temporary pop up cycle lane on Crescent Bridge.

The decision has drawn criticism from the city’s cycle forum as well as many local councillors. Liberal Democrat group leader on the council Cllr Nick Sandford accused the Council Leader, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerlad, of scrapping the cycle lane based on “misleading” statistics, which suggested it was used, on average, for just 122 trips a day.

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The Capability fund grant replaced the Access Fund, which ran between 2017 and 2021, and supports transport authorities outside London in staffing and drawing up initiatives in line with the government’s walking and cycling plan for England.

In July 2020, the government published ‘Gear Change: a bold vision for cycling and walking’ and in it set out its radical plans to make England a great walking and cycling nation.

It set out the actions required to achieve this, grouped into four themes:

- Better streets for cycling and people

- Cycling and walking to be at the heart of decision-making

- Empowering and encouraging local authorities

- Enabling people to cycle and protecting them when they do

The plan also included many new ideas, such as stipulating that cyclists must be treated as vehicles and not pedestrians; any new cycle provision which involved sharing space with pedestrians would no longer be funded.

At the most recent full council meeting last month (July 28), Green party member for Orton Waterville, Cllr Nicola Day criticised the closure of the cycle lane and asked Cllr Fitzgerald if he had read ‘Gear Change’ after he referred to his plans to find a permanent solution and separate cyclists from road users.

He said: “It’s a temporary, pop-up cycle lane. That has now come to an end.

“I have given an undertaking to find a more permanent solution so as to keep road users and cyclists separate.”

Cllr Day also accused the council of wasting its second tranche of its Active Travel Funding and having nothing to show for it, after, instead of using it to keep open the cycle lane, the £470,000 was allocated to the scheme to create a fully kerb-segregated cycle lane connecting Longthorpe to the Thorpe Wood Business Park and South Bretton.

This went against the recommendation of the council’s own working group.

Despite this, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Peterborough said it is both fully committed to ensuring the funding comes to the combined authority area and are engaging with the Dft to do so.

A spokesperson for the combined authority said: “The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and the Mayor were made aware of the letter from the Department for Transport about cycling and walking funding on Friday 30th July.

“We are fundamentally committed to cycling and walking, particularly in relation to the Mayor’s key principles of compassion, cooperation and community, and the huge benefits of active travel for improved public health.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the funding comes to the Combined Authority area, and are working with our partners at Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council to make that happen.

“We are engaging with the Department for Transport and others to understand the further assurances required and will make a more formal statement once this information is clarified.”

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