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Roads to Nowhere

£2bn local growth plans ignore smarter travel choices

25 June 2014
New research by sustainable transport charities Campaign for Better Transport and Sustrans has found that the Government's £2bn Local Growth Fund is at risk of being dominated by road projects that will increase congestion after fewer than half of England's 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) bid for money to support alternatives to car travel such as cycling, walking, or public transport.

 

Local Enterprise Partnerships are responsible for deciding the priorities for investment in transport, buildings and facilities within their local area and each has produced a Strategic Economic Plan as a bidding document for the Local Growth Fund.

The charities’ new analysis of the initial bids submitted to Government found only 49 per cent of LEPs are seeking any funding for investment in extending travel choice and in many cases it is attached to a large-scale road schemes that will force people to use their cars more and increase congestion.

Less than half (46 per cent) of LEPs have put forward any projects for walking, cycling or public transport for their local community, with road building and maintenance to the exclusion of all other transport spending making up three quarters of the bids from some LEPs.

The new analysis is also critical of the lack of transparency shown by Local Enterprise Partnerships in developing their Strategic Economic Plans. Only 54 per cent ran a public consultation on their plans, with a third offering no public scrutiny at all.

Sian Berry, Sustainable Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said

"Nearly every LEP claims to understand the importance of walking, cycling and public transport in making our towns and cities better places to live, work and invest. It is disappointing that so few build on the good work of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and commit to any projects that would deliver these aims. The pressure is now on central Government not to allow its much vaunted Local Growth Fund to be turned into a local tarmac fund."

Jason Torrance, Policy Director, Sustrans said

“We know that most people drive because they don’t have a choice.  Government has sought to address this by increased investment in cycling and walking, making good progress over the past 5 years. Now this legacy is under threat unless national and local government work together to improve the initial spending priorities identified by LEPs, away from roads and towards giving people greater choice.

“When local funding is awarded, it must be to those areas that have consulted widely, shown transparency and have a clear plan in place to move away from car dependency in their communities.”

Notes

1. Key findings from Strategic Economic Plans Review include

  • Reference to sustainable travel is high, with 97 per cent of LEPs including it in the general narrative of their Strategic Economic Plans. This reflects a marked increase since the release of the draft plans. However only 46 per cent go on to include plans which feature sustainable travel in a strong way.
  • Cycling features strongly by way of mention but are often bolt-ons to large-scale road based schemes. Despite 86 per cent of LEPs indicating the value of investing in cycling and walking, only 49 per cent go on to request capital funding for dedicated walking & cycling schemes.
  • Only 41 per cent of LEPs have put forward any strong consideration of public transport within their SEPs.
  • Although capital elements of the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund have been rolled into the Local Growth Fund, only 49 per cent of SEPs make any reference to LSTF requirements. Many SEPs have considered sustainable transport schemes but have not separated LSTF elements in their bid
  • The transparency of the SEP process was poor. Only 66 per cent of LEPs made their draft SEPs open to public scrutiny prior to final SEP submittal to government on the 31st March. Only 54 per cent ran a form of public consultation either via an online survey, email or event