Community leaders have expressed dismay as it emerged England’s largest county stands to receive about a third of a penny per resident to boost active travel schemes this year, as part of Boris Johnson’s £2bn “walking and cycling revolution”.
An officers’ report to a meeting of senior North Yorkshire councillors and officers states the county has been offered £220,780 of the £30m on offer to develop active travel across England this year, despite North Yorkshire having received below average funding last year and spanning a larger area than any other authority.
While neighbouring authorities in West Yorkshire and Teesside each received £1.3m in 2022, North Yorkshire was given just £207,683, which the council announced would be used to plug a shortfall in government funding for school Bikeability courses and to review several Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.
The announcement follows the government rejecting the authority’s bid for a £116m share of its Bus Back Better initiative in its entirety, saying the North Yorkshire council had failed to show ambition.
Ahead of this year’s funding allocations being decided Active Travel England issued a social media post stating it wanted “to work with the willing and that means sharing our faith and the majority of our funding with councils that have the highest levels of leadership, ambition and ability to deliver”.
It said councils’ capability and ambition to deliver successfully, alongside their recent track record would inform the funding allocations for active travel schemes.
Of the £220,780 funding this year, the officers’ report states £143,000 could be spent on developing a route connecting Brayton to nearby Selby town centre and the rail station.
The remainder of the funding will be used to buy intelligent traffic sensors to gather data about walking and cycling and for behaviour change initiatives, such as travel planning at schools and marketing schemes.
The report states: “It is believed that all three elements will complement each other well. To meet the fund objective of sustained increases in walking, wheeling and cycling for everyday journeys including to school and work we must focus on having shovel ready schemes ready for future capital funding.
“We must also focus behaviour change initiatives where infrastructure is being developed such as Harrogate, Skipton, Selby and Scarborough.”
North Yorkshire County Council’s Independent group leader, Councillor Stuart Parsons welcomed that the funding was due to be spent somewhere other than Harrogate, following numerous transport schemes being focused on the county’s biggest population centre in recent years.
He said: “It would be nice if they could try to remember Scarborough, Ryedale, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Craven next time they are given money. In fairness, to have spread that amount of money across the whole of North Yorkshire would have been laughable.
“A third of a penny a person is not going to make a huge difference in most locations. We can celebrate that we are getting a footpath, but for active travel and connectivity in North Yorkshire it is a very disappointing total.”