As I’m sure you’ve already gathered from reading some of my weekly columns, I’m a keen cyclist and believe it or not before I became the Cabinet member for Highways which includes cycling, I didn’t even own a bike. So here we are now 12 years later with three road bikes, a hybrid and a mountain bike to my name competing to clock as many Love To Ride ‘Cycle September’ miles as possible just itching for the better weather to arrive so I can get back out and about on two wheels. The Devon County Council’s Cycling and Multi-Use Trail Strategy sets out steps to support local walking and cycling aspirations to be realised and at the policy level, it recommends that schemes should be identified in Local Plans. Because schemes that are included in Infrastructure Delivery Plans, linked to growth or are identified in Neighbourhood Plans have the potential to secure developer contributions and/or Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to be collected. Such funding could be used to lever in either competitive Government grant monies or Local Transport Plan match funding, although it should be recognised opportunities for this are limited.
There are plenty of good examples around the County of local communities raising their own funds to commission early feasibility work for their aspirational routes. The County Council encourages more of this as it is a fundamental step in identifying what land, environmental or planning constraints may affect a proposal’s deliverability.
The County Council has also produced a useful document ‘Community Paths: a 10 step guide to improving public rights of way in your community’ this assists local groups, individuals and/or landowners who are considering ideas for improving access in their communities. This might be as simple as improving an existing right of way, or creating a new multi-use path, such as a link between two villages.
Over the next 12 months the County Council’s Cycling and Multi Use Trail Strategy will be refreshed to respond positively to the Government’s recent publications ‘Gear Change: a bold vision for cycling and walking’ and ‘Local Transport Note 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design’ documents. As part of this update, it will incorporate policy to support local aspirations.
Two schemes dear to my heart are the Sidford to Sidbury phase of the Sid Valley Trail which I secured funding for to carry out a re-design/modified route and which is almost ready to be revealed.
The second scheme is the Sidmouth to Feniton (Otter Valley Trail) which is included in the Cycling Strategy and which both myself through my County locality budget and SUSTRANS put funds towards in 2017 to carry out a feasibility study and preferred route across the A3052 via a new bridge. However whilst the trail has seen several sections completed at both Sidmouth along Long Park across the A375 Sidford Road via an Toucan Crossing a joining up to the Byes section of the Sid Valley Trail, and between Ottery St Mary and Feniton where work has already been carried out on sections of the disused railway line, further funding is required and is certainly within our grasp.