Herts county council rejects A5183 Redbourn Road cycle lane for funding application

County councillor Annie Brewster has been campaigning for a cycle lane to be installed on the A5183

County councillor Annie Brewster has been campaigning for a cycle lane to be installed on the A5183 between St Albans and Redbourn. Picture: Courtesy of Annie Brewster - Credit: Archant

The allocation of emergency funds for active travel should be brought under greater local control, St Albans councillors have urged.

It follows the news that a cycle route between St Albans and Redbourn was ignored in a funding bid by Herts county council (HCC).

The Secretary of State for Transport - Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps - is to be asked to ensure the criteria for future spending decisions on cycling and walking routes in Herts can be made locally.

The move follows a Government rule that priority should be given to establish new routes in urban rather than rural or semi-rural locations.

Active travel is being heavily promoted as it is good for people’s physical and mental health and can reduce pollution.

Members of SADC’s community, environment and sport scrutiny committee heard this week that there had been a massive increase in walking and cycling during the pandemic, which prompted the government to release money for cycle route improvements through its Emergency Active Travel Fund.

Highways authority HCC used this to finance high street closures in St Albans and Harpenden, but failed to bid for finance for other schemes, including a cycle route on the A5183, which would link the existing cycle routes of the Nicky Line, the Green Ring and the Alban Way.

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HCC said the scheme did not conform to the Government’s criteria, which favoured urban routes.

A scheme to provide better cycle connections between Wheathampstead, St Albans, Harpenden, Luton, Hatfield and Welwyn was also not put forward.

Committee chair Cllr Annie Brewster, who campaigned for the A5183 route, said: “It was absolutely devastating that the scheme for a Redbourn Road cycle lane was not put forward for Tranche 2 of the Government’s £6m Emergency Active Travel Fund earmarked for Hertfordshire.

“It has received universal support from councillors and a rapidly-signed petition from over 1,800 concerned residents.

“The Government funding seeks for cycle lanes to be wholly-fitted into existing road space. When detailed engineering was examined, the use of some verge, footway and greenery plus some timely junction remodelling would be required and this was unlikely to meet the fund’s criteria, so its inclusion could risk other county projects that were also being submitted.

“Similarly, greater connectivity between the towns around Wheathampstead are not being put forward for Government funding. Again, this is because they would not be deemed urban enough to comply with the funding requirements.

“The county council’s hands have been tied by the Government giving priority to urban rather than rural routes.

“However, I am urgently working with officers to find other means of funding these vital routes, looking at internal county council funding schemes.

“I will now be writing to the Transport Secretary and will call on him to allow local representatives to decide where the money should be allocated. They are the ones who know their communities best and have a real feel for their areas.

“If we want people to cycle and walk more, particularly in light of new post COVID-19 habits, we have to provide them with safe routes to do so wherever they live in our district.”