Council urged to increase active travel budget

Shropshire Council is being urged to increase its spending on active travel to 10 per cent of its total highways budget.

The issue will be discussed at next week's meeting of full council
The issue will be discussed at next week's meeting of full council

The opposition Liberal Democrat group has put forward proposals to give cycling and walking greater priority, and will ask fellow councillors to support the idea at a meeting of the full council next week.

A motion to be tabled by Copthorne councillor Rob Wilson calls on the authority to gradually up its active travel capital budget over the next three financial years.

In 2021/22 the council has set aside £314,000 – just over one per cent of its total highways budget of £28.5 million and approximately £1 per head of population.

Groups including the Shropshire Climate Action Partnership, Sustrans, Living Streets and Cycling UK say active travel spending should account for 10 per cent of local authorities’ highways budgets.

To bring the council in line with this target, Councillor Wilson is asking for the active travel budget to rise by three per cent of the total highways budget each year – to four per cent in 2022/23 seven per cent in 23/24 and 10 per cent in 24/25.

The Lib Dems are also proposing that Shropshire Council asks the newly established inspectorate Active Travel England to be a consultee on all planning applications in the county.

Councillor Wilson said: “This is a pragmatic, clear proposal that recognises the position that Shropshire is in, and sets out the steps necessary for it to become a shining example to rural councils up and down the country.

“We cannot continue to blindly accept constantly increasing traffic on our roads and hope that building more bypasses will solve the problem.

“It won’t, that is an outdated model that just doesn’t work.

“Currently even in rural counties like Shropshire, 40 per cent of car journeys are less than two miles.

“The council has to offer residents a realistic alternative – be that walking, cycling or using public transport.”

Councillor Wilson said the motion was in line with strong government and public support in favour of active travel initiatives.

The Department for Transport has warned that councils which do not prioritise walking and cycling will see their funding cut, while a YouGov poll last year found 77 per cent of people are in favour of road space reallocation to enable safer cycling and walking.

Chirbury and Worthen councillor Heather Kidd, deputy leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said: “I have residents who can’t walk to the doctor’s surgery, walk their children to school safely, to the shop or even get to the pub on a pavement.

“Pavements in Brockton and Worthen are either non-existent of so narrow a children’s buggy doesn’t fit on it.

“No-one should have to decide whether they or their dog should be on the pavement.

“We have had near misses, people hit by lorry wing mirrors and a death. Active walking should be a right in our villages.”

Group leader David Vasmer, who represents Underdale, added: “Shropshire is at the bottom of the league table on active travel.

“We’ve already lost grants over this, and if the council don’t buck their ideas up, we’ll lose even more support – with our roads and footpaths in the state they are, that would be dreadful.”

The motion will be debated by councillors at a meeting next Thursday at Theatre Severn.

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