Green message `being ignored'

CAMPAIGNERS have accused county councillors of ignoring the Tory Party's “go green” message by failing to give any funding priory to a national cycle route which crosses Suffolk.

By Graham Dines

CAMPAIGNERS have accused county councillors of ignoring the Tory Party's “go green” message by failing to give any funding priory to a national cycle route which crosses Suffolk.

The Green Party says the Conservative controlled county council has reneged on David Cameron's pledge to encourage alternatives to car use by failing to put any funding after next March into improving the section of cycle route 51 from Felixstowe to the Cambridgeshire border.

Route 51 projects planned for the current financial year include a cycle track from One House to Stowmarket, work on the section from Landguard Point to Felixstowe town centre, a route across Holywells Park in Ipswich, the Linnet Valley Path in Bury St Edmunds and contra flow cycle facilities in Newmarket.

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Responsibility for the development of the national cycle network rests with the engineering charity Sustrans. It provides 50% of the funding for projects, with the shortfall made up from council tax.

Although national routes are designed to attract long distance cyclists, the vast majority of users are those making relatively short, local journeys along dedicated road space free of vehicles.

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The Greens criticism is not limited to the Tories. They say that from 2001 when Labour and the Liberal Democrats ran the authority, only fragments of the route were improved, most noticeably between Thurston and Bury St Edmunds.

Andrew Stringer, a Mid Suffolk district councillor for the Greens, said the provisional five year local transport plan published last summer contained the encouraging statement that the county council had “managed to maintain levels of cycling in Suffolk in the face of a national decline.”

However, said Mr Stringer, this message disappeared when the final version of the plan was sent to the Department for Transport for approval “which exposes the timidity of the objective that there would be no reduction in cycling trips by 2010/11.”

Mr Stringer said Mid Suffolk district's priorities placed completion of cycle route 51 high on its list, but this had been ignored by the county council.

County policies would lead to a continual rise in Suffolk's carbon footprint. “Applying the recently conceived technique known as back-casting, it is clear we need cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of between three and four per cent a year to achieve 2010 and 2050 targets to check climate change.

“There is no sign that this need has been accepted by the county council,” said Mr Stringer.

Guy McGregor: “I am not going to be held hostage to fortune by single interest lobbying groups.

“Any critical examination of policies implemented since the Conservatives took control of the county council last year will find that we have promoted heavily schemes designed to encourage less car use.

“For example, the project to make Ipswich fit for the 21st century shows that we recognise how important public transport, cycling, and enhanced footpaths are to our overall strategy.”

Mr McGregor added: “If Sustrans comes up with further schemes to national cycle route 51 and offers funding, we will support it and match the funding from the council's budget.”

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