Hampshire plans to remove Active Travel schemes despite strong public support

CW calls on HCC to implement new schemes in full, retaining temporary schemes in the interim

Hampshire County Council this week published a recommendation to remove current Active Travel schemes in Winchester with no replacement in sight. This despite a clean sweep of positive responses to the public consultation held earlier this year.

Cycle Winchester calls on HCC to implement the Tranche 2 Active Travel schemes in full, following strong public support in the consultation. We also call on them to retain the temporary schemes in the interim.

We call on Cycle Winchester supporters to sign this petition, which urges Hampshire to retain the current schemes until bigger, better schemes are in place.

You can also email Hampshire transport portfolio leaders Councillors Rob Humby and Russell Oppenheimer, copying your local county councillor e.g. Martin Tod, Jan Warwick, Dominic Hiscock or Jackie Porter, asking them to keep the current schemes and fully implement the proposed schemes which have received public support. The decision will be tabled at a July 29th meeting of the HCC committee on Economy, Transport and Environment.

Remarkably strong vote in favour of new proposals

The results of the consultation are a remarkably strong positive vote in favour of the Active Travel proposals.

For every one of the four schemes: N Walls; North-South; High St/Upper High Street; and Clifton Terrace, there was a clear positive vote from respondents that:

  • The proposal would improve the area;
  • The proposal would have a positive impact on respondents’ journeys, and;
  • The proposal would encourage the respondent to use Active Travel.

On just one sub-issue was there an equivocal response: on the closure of Hyde St, 46% agree and 46% disagree. (It’s a lukewarm result for those who favour re-opening Hyde St, given the amount of fervour and column-inches devoted to that cause.)

And yet, despite this remarkably strong positive response from citizens, HCC is recommending to reject the main elements of three of the schemes, seemingly because they have favoured the narrow objections of locally-affected residents over the greater good of the city. Some piecemeal improvements remain (contraflow on Parchment St and St Peter’s St, and a small section of cycleway on the High St), and a vague ‘longer-term package of improvements’ is promised, but our overwhelming response was disappointment that residents’ desire for a fully-implemented set of schemes has been ignored.

HCC risks falling foul of central government policy

There has been strong, clear guidance from central government to local authorities on implementation of Active Travel schemes. In a letter of 14 June 2021, the Department for Transport told local authorities: “Consultation does not mean giving anyone a veto, requiring consensus on schemes or prioritising the loudest voices.” It seems that HCC has ignored that directive. They have given more credence to petitions than to the results of their own official consultation.

They recommend ripping out the temporary schemes, for fear of congestion that might occur if traffic levels increase, despite noting no increase in journey times to June 2021 and only marginal increases since then. In removing the temporary restrictions we feel they will only encourage an increase in motor traffic, which will hinder the introduction of the ‘longer term package of improvements’, whenever that might materialise.

HCC should consider how they will account to DfT for the removal of the temporary schemes, with no immediately apparent replacement, in the context of the £4M of funding granted on the basis of these proposals. Again, from the DfT letter of 14 June: “All schemes must be given time to bed-in and for benefits to be realised before changes are made to them. The Department will reserve the right to claw back funding for schemes prematurely removed.” DfT has recently informed West Sussex County Council that, because of the way the council removed its Tranche 1 projects, it is now ineligible to apply for Tranche 3.

If the committee adopts the recommendation for Winchester, they undermine their stated policy on achieving a shift to Active Travel and all the benefits that will accrue (net-zero targets, public health, reduction of congestion and pollution, and quality of life in the city). Worryingly they also risk clawback of already-granted funding, and ineligibility for future funding streams. 

We think Hampshire is taking the wrong path on this decision and we call on supporters to tell them so. Please sign the petition linked at the head of this article, and email the relevant councillors.

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