Councillor ‘in despair’ at ‘bewildering decision’

Councillors at Lewes District Council are ‘in despair’ after East Sussex County Council decided to pull all their support for government-funded improvements to Lewes district’s cycling and walking infrastructure.

The government emergency active travel fund was announced in May in response to the increase in people cycling and walking because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Phase one of the scheme was expected to see East Sussex local authorities share a pot of £479k that would fund cycling and walking enhancements, including in Lewes district.

Councillor Matthew Bird,(pictured) Cabinet Member for Sustainability, said:

“I am in despair at this decision by East Sussex County Council. 

“Just a few weeks ago the government announced a bold cycling vision to encourage walking and cycling improvements across the country. When we found out ESCC were not likely to deliver anything we spoke to them and they agreed to consider practical measures that would be deliverable by March 2021.

“The district council has worked closely with local walking and cycling groups who have put a great deal of time and effort into proposing practical and deliverable measures for their communities along these lines. They have been completely let down by the bewildering decision not to act on any of them.”

Phase one proposals included social distancing signage in shopping areas, the installation of cycle racks in Lewes town centre, the widening of pedestrian areas and more use of segregated cycleways.  The fund increases to £1.9m in phase two later this year and the council had set up a Cycling and Walking Forum to engage and consult with all relevant stakeholders about implementing changes in the district.

Councillor Bird added:

“That the county council couldn’t even implement the most simple measures in phase one, it came as no surprise that they also turned down our more ambitious, but eminently sensible improvements recommended for phase two.”

“We’ve seen cycling and walking soar in popularity in the last four months and just when the door opens on an opportunity to build on this momentum, it is slammed in the face of every person who is serious about clean air, reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change.”