The journey towards better cycling and walking in Shoreham by Sea often feels like a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’. And there has been a significant setback.
West Sussex County Council’s current programme of consultation – with its strong evidence of public opinion – has been focussed on readying a bid for what’s called ‘Tranche 3’ of the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund. But WSCC may now be ineligible to even bid for such funding.
Tranche 1 of the ATF, in 2020, was provided to fund emergency, temporary schemes to help us all adapt our travel habits during the most difficult time of the pandemic. Tranche 3 is designed to provide lasting, serious well-designed change that enables cycling and walking in the long term.
Here’s the catch:
The Department for Transport has written to West Sussex County Council to say that, because of the way the council handled its Tranche 1 projects (including the temporary lanes on Upper Shoreham Road) it is now ineligible to apply for Tranche 3 – the funding which could bring long-term improvements to Shoreham.
This is harsh
It’s no secret that WSCC could have made a better job of last winter’s temporary schemes across the county. They were all removed before they’d had a chance to settle in, rather than being carefully tested and adjusted. We can’t speak for other towns like Worthing and Chichester, but it was clear that in Shoreham, there was a case for tweaking, adapting, and allowing a matter of months – at least – for the full benefit of the experimental ‘Tranche 1’ lanes to be realised.
This mistake was noticed by several of Shoreham’s county councillors, who ‘called in’ the decision to prematurely remove the lanes. A WSCC scrutiny committee voted 6-2 that this decision deserved reconsideration, but the then Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure – Cllr Roger Elkins – stuck to his guns – and the lanes – carrying hugely boosted numbers of Shoreham people on their journeys – were removed.
Since then, lots has changed. WSCC, recognising the shifting tide of positive opinion towards active travel, has begun a very thorough programme of consultation – the most recent stage of which has shown a 67% level of support for positive changes to selected streets.
At WSCC, there is a new Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport – Cllr Joy Dennis – who appears to recognise the opportunities on offer and the need to improve walking and cycling across West Sussex.
But ultimately, the decision to deprive West Sussex of much-needed funding has been taken in Westminster – not in Chichester.
What can we do?
We are writing to the Department for Transport, explaining the impact of this decision, and asking that WSCC is at least allowed to submit its Tranche 3 bid for consideration.
We have spoken to our MP, Tim Loughton, who shares our disappointment, and who is also writing to DfT ministers.
And we continue to speak to WSCC councillors and officers – all of whom seem determined to apply thorough consultation and high-quality decision-making to really move Shoreham (and the whole county) in the right direction.
What can you do?
These are frustrating times. But the game is not up. Another round of consultation – more detailed than before – is coming soon. Please participate in this. We’ll share details when they’re available.
And writing to your county councillor – and to Shoreham’s MP – will help demonstrate the strength of feeling that exists within Shoreham’s community – that the people in our increasingly busy town deserve better choices in how they travel – and that we need well-designed streets to make this a reality.