March 1 2015 Latest news:
Thursday, March 20, 2014
West Suffolk’s biggest town could soon find itself with a £1million fund to make life easier for its walkers and cyclists.
Bury St Edmunds has been earmarked by Suffolk County Council as the latest recipient of its local sustainable transport programme, with the council able to apply for up to £1m from the Department for Transport to fund comprehensive improvements to cycling and pedestrian access across the town.
Around £800,000 will be used to fund an engagement programme with businesses, schools and colleges, as well as devising a travel plan for business employees to ditch the car for their daily commute.
County councillor David Nettleton has been one of the biggest advocates for improving sustainable transport in the town, and said the current facilities were “poor”.
He added: “A lot of the electors I speak to want to cycle more often, they want their children to cycle more often, but find it off-putting that you’ve got green lines by the side of the road, and then they run out.
“The restriction is on the safety aspect. We’ve got to invest in that and that can only be done by local authorities.
“At the minute it’s not sufficient and we need to improve it. The government is very keen to improve it - that’s why it’s allocated this money particularly for these projects.”
Money for engagement programmes will be supported by big investment in infrastructure for cycling and pedestrians, with money drawn from the Local Growth Fund controlled by the New Anglia local enterprise partnership.
Similar investment has already been made in Ipswich and Lowestoft in recent years, with the Lowestoft Links programme resulting in a 10% shift from car journeys to sustainable transport.
Currently, 60% of journeys made in Bury cover fewer than five miles, while drivers often use the A14 as a means of getting from one side of town to the other, which fuels congestion at peak times.
Other reasons the council cited for investing in Bury were the town’s expected growth - 5,000 new homes and 12,000 new jobs by 2031 - as well the impact of the school organisation review on traffic.
A council spokesman said a lot of the town’s current cycling provision was “underused”, adding: “Suffolk County Council doesn’t have revenue budgets to support this level of activity, so if we don’t get the funding the work can’t be done.
“We’ve already bid for and received funding for projects in Ipswich and Lowestoft, which have shown decreases in car use on short journeys.
“It will fund a range of activities for schools, businesses and communities, with dedicated additional resource and staffing to deliver on the ground.”
The deadline for applications is at the end of this month, and money must be spent in the 2015/16 financial year.