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Denbighshire County Council scrap “active travel” promotion plans

A pressure group questioned Denbighshire council’s commitment to promoting walking and cycling after it scrapped measures to promote “active travel” and spent only 61% of the grant it received.

Denbighshire Cycle and Walking Path Support Group contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) voicing opposition to the removal of active travel measures in Ruthin.

They include a temporary one-way system and studded bollards designed to widen pedestrian walkways and encourage more cyclists and pedestrians into the town centre.

It has more than 2,100 members on its Facebook site and a spokesman for the group said it “supported” the active travel scheme.

He added: “The Ruthin scheme was an ambitious pilot to reduce traffic, broaden pavements and make the town centre amenable to visitors.

“Our concern  is clear reasons for the removal have not been provided and the decision was taken before the end of a consultation period.

“We are looking beyond the pandemic and would urge Denbighshire council to operate the pilot until 2022  in order to evaluate its impact on active travel and  tourism in summer months.

“We believe the scheme can be improved but restoring two-way traffic is not the way ahead.

“Local authorities must try new approaches that help town centres to be accessible on foot, by bike, with pushchairs, young children or wheelchairs.”

Cllr Brian Jones, the authority’s lead member for waste, transport and environment, removed the Well Street section of the plan after consulting with local county councillors in the Ruthin Member Area Group (MAG) in December.

He made the “decision in principle” to scrap the rest of the scheme, which was supposed to have been trialled for 18 months, on January 25 this year – six days before a consultation on active travel closed.

After that ended on January 31 he met with local county councillors again, before finally deciding to pull the plug on the trial on February 4, with the council claiming it was due to feedback received by the MAG from local businesses and residents.

A Denbighshire council spokesman said: “The scheme was initially approved following a recommendation from Ruthin MAG and a decision by the lead member – this was the same process used in the withdrawal of the scheme.

“The Council was under no statutory obligation to consult with the public.”

He added the consultation was set up because of the “level of public interest on social media”.

Residents in Denbigh opposed a similar scheme to Ruthin’s and it was never introduced, while shoppers and business owners in Rhyl were less than welcoming of new measures there.

There have also been temporary modifications made to promote active travel in Llangollen town centre.

Of the £981,000 received for the schemes from Welsh Government, £210,000 was handed back due to Denbigh town centre plans being scrapped.

There was £156,000 allocated for “public transport measures” leaving £615,000 for the remaining three schemes but Denbighshire council says only “£505,000 is forecasted to be spent on the active travel measures”.

Another group member questioned the council’s commitment to the “principle of active travel and the benefits it can bring”.

The council spokesman responded : “Active travel routes have previously been provided in Ruthin, such as in the Glasdir and Park Road areas.

“We continue to be committed to the principle of active travel and we continue to work closely with Welsh Government and Transport for Wales in order to create an ambitious programme for the development of new active travel routes in Denbighshire.”

He said this was dependant on grant funding but there were a “number of projects at various stages of development”.

The spokesman added: “Our active travel team is committed to engaging with the Denbighshire Cycle and Walking Path Support Group, and they will be in regular contact as and when any active travel related public engagement event takes place.”

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