Cautious Sutton welcome for travel fund boost

A multi-million pound funding boost to promote active travel, including walking and cycling in the Sutton area, has been given a cautious welcome.

It comes as Sutton residents were taking part in a month-long cycling initiative which is due to go Midlands-wide next week.

Birmingham City Council has been awarded nearly £4.5m as part of the second tranche of funding from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund. 

A Sutton councillor says full consultation with all local interested parties over the new transport funding, must be open and inclusive.

Councillor Maureen Cornish also criticised the council for the installation of a cycle scheme on Brassington Avenue in Sutton town, since removed, for launching a proper consultation.

The new funding comes from a £13 million allocation to Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). 

An engagement programme with residents and businesses on how they would like to see the funding used in their communities is already underway.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar MBE, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “This second tranche of funding gives Birmingham a real opportunity to continue transforming our transport network, reduce air pollution, and provide our citizens with more opportunities for active travel.

“We want to focus on supporting a green recovery and will seek community input at every stage, with future schemes being delivered throughout 2021.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We all know that cycling and walking are good for our physical health and good for the environment, especially as we face up to the climate emergency in the region.

“Many have taken to two wheels throughout the pandemic, but some are not yet confident enough because they do not believe the right infrastructure is in place. That is why the money we have secured from Government for the Emergency Active Travel Fund is so important, and I look forward to seeing what improvements Birmingham City Council are going to propose for Sutton Coldfield.

“With our West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme trial already up and running in the royal town, and the full scheme launching next week, these are really exciting times for cyclists in Sutton.”

Councillor Maureen Cornish

Councillor Cornish, who represents Four Oaks ward on Birmingham City Council, said: “I would support reducing pollution and encourage active travel including cycling and walking, but proactive consultation is the key.

“This is essential for all wards across the city particularly in Sutton Coldfield. Sutton Town Council, the B.I.D, and local residents must be allowed sufficient time to absorb all plans.

“The previous installation of a cycle route, without full consultation within Brassington Avenue, Sutton Coldfield, resulted in its removal. This was inappropriate use of tax payers money.

“This could have been avoided if consultation was implemented well in advance of installation. Information provided states that consultation will commence later this year, therefor we need to keep a close eye on all aspects of the procedure .”

The Active Travel Fund supports the improvement of active travel (cycling and walking) provision and safety in towns and cities.

Formal consultation on the proposals will take place later this year after lockdown restrictions have eased to ensure inclusive, meaningful engagement with communities and key stakeholders can be carried out.

The plans support the Council’s vision for a cleaner, greener city – as set-out in its Route to Zero Action Plan, which was approved last month.

New bike stands have appeared at Sutton Park as part of the new cycle hire scheme in the town. 

The stands have appeared at the park’s Banners Gate and Boldmere Gate entrances as well as Sutton town centre and customers will hire the bikes via an app at a cost £1 to unlock a bike and 5p per minute after that. This means a 20 minute cycle will cost £2 and an hour £4.

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has welcomed the initiative. He said: “I know the people of Sutton will be itching to get involved now they can see the docks and bikes, and I look forward to seeing the first residents of the royal town trying the bikes out when the scheme launches to members of the public on March 8.”

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