A Richmondshire councillor has accused North Yorkshire County Council of narrow-mindedness and ignoring residents in rural areas after it emerged money for new cycling routes was mainly being spent in just one town.
The county council has come under fire after it revealed it would spend the vast majority of its share of the Government’s £2bn funding for walking and cycling facilities in Harrogate.
Ahead of the council submitting its final bid to the government to retain its boundaries in a new unitary authority this week, the leader of the Tory-led authority’s Independent group, Councillor Stuart Parsons, said he was “absolutely appalled” by its plans for the £1,011,750 Active Travel Fund.
An officers’ report has emerged showing three of the four walking and cycling projects were in Harrogate and the other is in Whitby.
However, one of the schemes could be dropped if the right type of funding is not found.
Details of the schemes have emerged days after the authority’s former leader, Councillor John Weighell warned villagers pressing for the creation of safe cycling and walking routes to nearby towns that they could face a wait of hundreds of years to realise their ambition unless they raise the funding themselves.
He said funding would always be prioritised where it would bring the greatest benefit, effectively ruling out areas with smaller populations.
Such is the public appetite for such schemes in North Yorkshire, that after the Prime Minister announced the active travel funding earlier this year the council received 290 applications from local groups.
The officers’ report states the applications were assessed for their deliverability within this financial year and their ability to “satisfy the Department for Transport that they have swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians”.
It states: “Schemes that do not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.
“All cycling schemes, permanent or temporary, will need to include segregation or point closures to through traffic: advisory cycle lanes, and those marked only with white paint, will not be funded.”
The report states the proposed schemes and others identified through the council’s Local Cycling and Walking Improvement Plan were assessed as to their benefits, before county councillors and about 100 cycling and walking groups were asked to comment on priorities.
The final four schemes include segregated cycle lanes and improved crossings at Oatlands Drive and the A59 in Harrogate costing £215,000 and £250,000 respectively.
The other schemes would see £250,000 spent on pedestrian crossing improvements, segregated cycling infrastructure and bike storage facilities in Harrogate town centre and walkways and cycle lanes along the park and ride route at Guisborough Road, Whitby.
The council will hold a consultation early next year before a final decision is made on which schemes can be taken forward.
Cllr Parsons said: “It beggars belief that they are looking to put almost all of that money into one town when the whole of the county needs schemes.
“They are going for what are easy wins while completely ignoring the rest of North Yorkshire. It’s good for Harrogate, but not so for elsewhere.”