Shropshire Star

Shropshire council leaders urged to fight back over 'drastic' £200 million active travel cuts

An active travel campaigner is urging leaders to fight back against "drastic" £200m cuts to the Government's walking and cycling infrastructure plan.

A women rides a bike in a cycle lane

Last Wednesday, Shropshire Council's draft Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan was signed off by the authority's cabinet, with Salopians being urged to share their views on a new 10-year scheme to upgrade walking and cycling networks across the county.

But, the next day, the Government announced swingeing cuts to the budget for active travel.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has written to Transport Secretary Jesse Norman, asking why such a "drastic" cut has been made.

Shrewsbury councillor Rob Wilson, a prominent local advocate for active travel, believes the UK is in "an inactivity crisis", and urged Shropshire Council leader Lezley Picton and the authority's transport portfolio holder Ian Nellins to call out the Government.

Mr Wilson, Lib Dem councillor for Copthorne, said: "In the week that Shropshire published its draft walking and cycling infrastructure plan, will Lezley Picton and Ian Nellins also write to Jesse Norman to urge the government to reconsider deep cuts to active travel funding?

"The UK has an inactivity crisis. The UK Government cuts the active travel budget."

A statement from Sustrans, the charity which campaigns for better cycleways, said: "It is heartbreaking to see vital active travel budgets wiped away in England, at the exact time when they are most essential to UK economic, social and environmental prospects.

"It simply doesn’t make sense to withdraw investment in active travel at this time, particularly as it contributed £36.5 billion to the UK economy in 2021.

"Representing a two-thirds cut to promised capital investment in safe infrastructure for walking, wheeling and cycling, these cuts are a backward move for active travel and will counteract the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent years.

"These cuts will leave England lagging far behind other UK nations and London, at a time when we need to be raising the bar everywhere.

"Promised Government targets of 50 per cent of all journeys in English towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030, and for the UK to be Net Zero by 2050, are made impossible by these cuts.

"People walking, wheeling and cycling take 14.6 million cars off the road, saving 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

"More than ever, people want and need support to walk, wheel and cycle, and these cuts will impact those that would have benefited most, limiting our choice to travel healthily, cheaply and emissions-free."

Shropshire Council has been contacted for a comment.