Funding highs and lows

We’ve had two lots of news in the last week about funding for cycling in and around Ely.

Pathetic current levels of funding

First we were asked to comment on a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which the Ely Standard made to the district council.

Summary of the FOI response. Full version here [pdf]

i)Actual spend

£10,000 contribution to Cambridgeshire County Council towards High Barns/Lynn Road

£90,668.16 towards West of Ely Cycleway link
£3,000 towards development of cycleway maps

£3,500 towards West of Ely Cycleway link

ii)Proposed Spend

£2,000 final spend for West of Ely Cycleway
Installation costs of cycle racks at Paradise Sports Centre, Ely

£17,000 for Ely Country Park cycleway and rain shelter (subject to Committee approval 15-1-13)

It shows the level of past and planned future spending to be very low. Most of the funding in the past has been spent on the “West of Ely Cycleway”, a shared use path that doesn’t actually go anywhere.

Here’s the response we sent to The Standard as quoted here.

Obviously the level of funding is utterly inadequate. The council’s Master Plan, Local Plan and Vision documents all state that the council wants to encourage cycling but this level of funding is not going to make any difference at all. To put the numbers into perspective, the £3,500 for the current year equates to just 8.75m of cycle lane. If the council seriously wants to encourage cycling it needs to dedicate proper levels of funding to doing so.

The future funding quoted begs the question: What is the £600,000 of Sainsbury’s S106 money being spent on? The council made a big show of going through a consultation process, supposedly asking how the money should be spent. That process showed a great deal of support for using the money to improve cycling provision. The proposals were watered down to: dealing with the cobbles in the Porta area and installing more cycle parking in the city centre. However it now seems that these have both been dropped. So what is the money being spent on and what was the point of the consultation process if it’s recommendations are just going to be ignored?
It’s not bad enough that the level of funding is pathetic but the improvements that have been funded are not where the money is required. The West of Ely Cycleway which is in fact a shared use footpath goes nowhere useful (like into the City Centre or to the station) and has no signs to show that cycling is allowed.

We’re very aware that the theoretical support for cycling in the council’s official documents gets watered down and translates into pathetic amounts of funding for inappropriate and badly thought out schemes. It’s the reason why we have such terrible infrastructure and
it happens all over the UK. To try to change this we’re working on a strategy that we want the council to adopt which looks at the City and surrounding area as a whole and outlines a comprehensive approach to changes that will give a joined up and useful cycle network that can
be safely used by everyone. The current strategy can be read here – – it’s currently a work in progress but we hope to finalise and distribute it soon.

Investment at the station

Then yesterday we saw the news (here and here) that there is going to be a large investment in cycling provision for the city of £470,000, although some of this money comes from the already announced Local Sustainable Transport Fund, so it’s not new funding.

This investment for desperately needed parking at the station is a really good start and Greater Anglia (the train operator who manages the station) should be congratulated for spearheading the bid.

Peter Moakes, leader of the District Council, is quoted in the Ely Standard saying:

“The funding is great news for everyone who cycles to Ely railway station to catch a train. Over the next few months we are looking at how we can improve the ability of residents to cycle around our city in conjunction with the county council so this investment from the Government will help us to ensure we develop a coordinated approach throughout Ely.”

To be clear this money is not to “ensure we develop a coordinated approach throughout Ely”, it is for new cycle parking at the station only. Also, although Peter Moakes’s statement sounds positive the levels of planned funding in the FOI response show that there isn’t any funding committed to implement this.

What we don’t want to see is money spent on consultations that lead nowhere. To help avoid this we are in the process of drawing up a strategy (here) to deliver the coordinated provision Peter Moakes alludes to. We hope the parish, city, district and county councils will all get behind our strategy as a way to move forward. We’ll be distributing an initial draft in the next few weeks.

Sainsburys S106 money

One final unanswered question regarding funding is:

What has happened to the £600,000 of S106 funding which the district council spent a lot of time and energy consulting over last year?

This is the response from Giles Hughes, head of planning quoted in the Ely Standard.

“The main challenge for us in the next few months is to determine how best to allocate the money we have received from Sainsbury’s.”

This gives the impression that last year’s consultation is being ignored.

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