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Opposition pleas for 'proper consultation' on RBWM's active travel plans

An opposition councillor has warned the Windsor and Maidenhead council that it needs to ‘get as much information as possible’ before progressing with any new active travel schemes.

A total of £335,000 in funding was given to the borough last year as part of central Government’s Active Travel Fund, which aims to give councils more opportunity to increase sustainable modes of transport.

A consultation earlier this year saw thousands of people respond to a number of controversial council plans, including a bus gate in Shoppenhangers Road, of which 95 per cent of respondents disagreed with the proposal.

Low traffic neighbourhoods in West Windsor also received a backlash.

However, a school street at Larchfield School in Maidenhead, and a new pedestrian crossing in Boyne Hill, were supported by the last consultation.

Now, the council is asking for residents’ views on how best to improve cycling and walking in the borough, with a fresh consultation likely to take place in the summer.

Both online and postal submissions will be accepted, and the outcome of the survey will allow the council to upgrade its recently-adopted Cycling Action Plan into a 'Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan'.

Suggestions could cover areas such as encouraging people to leave their cars at home, walking to school more frequently, or segregated cycle lanes.

The council hopes that the exercise will help it figure out how to spend the ring-fenced Government cash, and also how to invest in longer-term aspects of sustainable travel.

Leader of the local independents, Councillor Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) said that she wanted the borough to improve safety for cyclists and schoolchildren with the cash.

She also accused the last survey of being a ‘desktop exercise’ and questioned the council’s level of local transport knowledge.

“I hope it is a proper consultation where it is not just ‘do you like this’ or ‘do you like that’ – I hope they are actually asking for comments. Residents are the ones who will use these roads and pavements,” she said.

“We need to get as much information as possible before we start spending money.

“What we had was a desktop exercise before. Somebody looked at a map and said ‘if we do this, this might work’, but without knowing what is happening around that area.

“They [the council] have lost that local knowledge.”

Cllr Jones added on the previous consultation: “They had the chance of this money and we didn’t have any on-the-shelf options. This council has been hollowed out over the last eight years, we are such a small council, we have far fewer officers doing the job.”

In response, Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said that the consultation was ‘about listening to residents’, not ‘point scoring’, and added that he would be looking to hear from ward councillors first about their own ideas on how to spend the money.

“We want residents and ward councillors to tell us where these measures can be implemented in order to deliver improvements in air quality and active travel,” he said.

“We are looking at a whole range of measures that will improve quality of life – buses, cycling, walking, town centres, speed reductions. It is important that residents are telling us where there is going to be a benefit.”

On Cllr Jones’ concerns, he added: “That is political. We are looking forward to hearing sound proposals from opposition councillors regarding measures they wish to promote within their ward.

“It is the ‘we are all doomed’ mentality. Officers did their best [before] and now we look forward to working with all parties.

“Residents will see this is part of a bigger picture, this is about listening to residents and getting it right – it is not about point scoring.”

Speaking on behalf of the Windsor and Maidenhead Cycling Action Group, Susy Shearer said: "Following the consultation on cycling and walking schemes earlier in the year, we are interested to see the council's plans for progressing active travel within its overarching commitment to sustainable transport across the borough.”

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