New strategy in the pipeline to boost active travel across Fenland

Fenland District Council and the Hereward Community Rail Partnership have agreed to fund a new cycling, walking and mobility strategy to help secure available funding to boost greener, safer and healthier active travel.

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Earlier this year the Government announced a £2 billion package 'to create a new era of cycling and walking' in the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

The first tranche of funding, released through the Emergency Active Travel Fund, has already seen temporary cycle racks installed across Fenland and new speed signs around schools in March.

Three more schemes are currently being considered under tranche two of the fund including improvements to the Freedom Bridge roundabout for pedestrians and cyclists in Wisbech, cycle improvements to make connections between Whittlesey town centre and residential areas, and provision of secure cycle lockers at the Horsefair in Wisbech.

Further funding is expected to be announced by the Government imminently, but the Council needs to identify additional improvement proposals and develop a wider strategy in order to take full advantage of the funding available.

At a meeting last week, Fenland District Council's Cabinet approved six further improvement schemes, and nominated priority projects to be worked up and costed straight away. These include a cycle way and footpath along the old railway bed between Chatteris and Somersham and improvements to the National Cycle Route 63 between Peterborough, Whittlesey, Eastrea and Coates.

Cabinet members also agreed to develop a new Fenland Cycling, Walking and Mobility Strategy at a cost of £25,835, to help draw in further third-party funding. The strategy will identify high-level interventions to improve cycling and walking in Fenland, as well as accessibility for mobility vehicles for those who depend upon them.

As the work also includes aims to improve connectivity to Fenland's railway stations, the Hereward Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has agreed to contribute £7,500 towards the cost of developing the strategy.

Cabinet agreed that Fenland District Council would fund the remaining £18,335 of the work, plus £3,000 to work up the priority improvement schemes.

Cllr Chris Seaton, the Council's Portfolio Holder responsible for transport and social mobility, said: "During the pandemic there has been a huge increase in levels of walking and cycling in Fenland and across the UK, and so the Government is investing heavily in plans to empower people to choose these alternatives more often.

"Not only will increased active travel relieve the pressure on public transport, but residents will also reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits.

"Having a cycling, walking and mobility strategy in place, and a list of improvement schemes, will strengthen our potential to secure funding and ensure we have robust plans in place to develop sustainable travel options throughout the district."

Leader of Fenland District Council, Cllr Chris Boden, added: "This is all about transforming travel across our towns and villages. We want to make it easier for people to leave the car at home and make walking and cycling their first choice for shorter journeys, or as part of longer journeys, such as cycling to a railway station.

"Improving our cycleways and pedestrian walkways, and encouraging behaviour change, will be good for our health, our environment, and for future generations."

Paul Nelson, Chairman of the Hereward CRP, said: "The Hereward Community Rail Partnership is very pleased to be able to contribute £7,500 towards the cost of developing this strategy. Improving connectivity to Fenland's railway stations is a major priority for the CRP and we welcome the opportunity to support this important work.

"The production of a strategy for Fenland that enables more multimodal journeys that incorporate walking, cycling and rail travel as well as considering the wider mobility requirements of residents is exactly what the area needs. I am looking forward to seeing this work progress in the New Year."

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