Walking and cycling schemes across Devon have received millions of pounds of cash to help them come to life. A number of priority active travel projects in Exeter, Newton Abbot, North Devon and Torridge will be supported with the funding to enable and encourage more people to walk and cycle.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Devon County Council is receiving just over £2 million of active travel funding from the Department for Transport. Plymouth City Council has been granted £2.5 million and Torbay £250,000.
In Exeter, £200,000 will go towards road layout enhancements in Queen Street and Iron Bridge which recently got underway. This scheme will ensure that the changes introduced during the pandemic to provide more space and improve safety for walkers and cyclists are made permanent.
Around £400,000 of funding will be used to upgrade walking and cycling links in Wonford, Exeter. This will include the construction of a bi-directional cycleway and pedestrian/cycle crossings on Rifford Road, which will form part of the E12 North-South strategic cycle route.
Work will also be carried out to design schemes to improve connections between the proposed Rifford Road cycleway and existing walking and cycling facilities.
Over £900,000 will help complete a section of the Tarka Trail between Ilfracombe and Braunton, delivering a key missing link of the trail near Willingcott Valley Holiday Village and on Nethercott Road, as well as enabling design development for other sections.
A zebra crossing will be constructed on Richmond Road in Appledore, near the Kingsley Avenue junction. This will support children, parents and staff walking to Appledore Primary School, as well as people visiting Anchor Park.
Cllr Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “This is very welcome funding towards the development and construction of a number of important active travel schemes. All of these schemes will provide benefits for health and wellbeing, as well as helping people to access education, employment and leisure facilities. We want to enable and encourage more people in Devon to walk and cycle, while also creating more attractive environments in town and city centres.”
In Torbay, the grant will deliver a new crossing at Shiphay Lane as part of a hospital trail, but the council has expressed its disappointment that other schemes it applied for – a ramp to improve access at Rainbow Drive and funds for developing further designs for the wider network – have not been awarded funding.
Cllr David Thomas, the new Conservative leader of the council, said: “We are delighted that Torbay has been successful in applying for a share of national funding from the government’s latest tranche of the active travel fund and this means that work can start on delivering safer roads for all users in that area, and provide the connection across Shiphay Lane to make walking, cycling and wheeling a real choice for residents in the area.
“However, we know from consultation with the local community that we also need a ramp and other accessibility improvements. We are disappointed not to have been given the funding and officers will meet with government to discuss other opportunities. Ultimately, we want the Hospital Trail delivered in full.”
Funding has also been awarded towards the controversial plans for Queen Street in Newton Abbot to undergo improvements to support walking and cycling. This scheme will include footway widening, improved crossing facilities and greening and seating to improve the local environment.
Changes are also proposed to parking and vehicular access arrangements, to facilitate the improvements and reduce traffic noise and pollution, with £500,000 of funding awarded to complement Future High Streets funding.
But last year, two thirds of businesses in Newton Abbot’s main shopping street came out against plans for pedestrianisation. Only public transport vehicles, disabled drivers and delivery lorries getting access to a restricted loading bay would be allowed through into Queen Street if the scheme goes ahead.
Officers at County Hall, working with counterparts at Teignbridge District Council, said widening pavements and reducing on-street parking by 55 per cent would create “a package of pedestrian and public realm enhancements”. The work would be supported by the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, designed to enable economic recovery.
But the plans have proven controversial and unpopular in some quarters. Newton Abbot Town Council is resisting plans that would reduce parking and banish most traffic from Queen Street, saying it is worried about the impact on shops and businesses. Councillors from the South Devon Alliance have provided a survey that shows the scale of opposition to the proposals. They attempted to speak to all 66 businesses that operate in and around Queen Street to get their views on the plans.
Of them, 43 openly stated they were against the proposals. Only six were in favour of the scheme, with seven undecided at this stage. A further ten had no-one who wished to comment or were closed when the surveys were carried out.
The Newton Abbot scheme will be subject to approval by councillors. The next meeting of the Teignbridge Highways and Traffic Orders Committee which will determine the fate of the plans is scheduled for Thursday, June 1 – although the agenda will not come out until later this week.
This latest grant from the Active Travel Fund is in addition to the £580,000 secured from the Active Travel Capability Fund 2022/23, and follows previous successful bids for nearly £3 million from earlier rounds of the Active Travel Fund.