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Active Travel group disbanded after councillor accuses it of being a "sleeper cell" for cyclists

Mat Feakins said the group, which was part of Monmouth Town Council, was “hell-bent on doing everything for cyclists and nothing for anyone else”

An active travel group has been disbanded by Monmouth Town Council after one councillor branded it a “sleeper cell” for cyclists.

The Active Travel, Pedestrian and Transport Working Group was responsible for promoting greener and healthier forms of transport in Monmouth. In November 2021 plans were put forward for a new cycle lane to provide better access to the town’s main shopping street. 

However, in a council meeting held on 24 January, one councillor launched a blistering attack on the active travel group. Mat Feakins, a member of the Welsh Conservatives, claimed that the group, by holding “clandestine” meetings away from the normal business of the council, had "in absolute terms operated beyond the remit of what they are allowed to do as councillors".

"This group seems to have gone off and, almost like a sleeper cell, we've got a council operating outside of a council," Feakins said.

He also claimed that the group’s members were “hell-bent on doing everything for cyclists and nothing for anyone else.”

“Most of the members of that group are cyclists, they should all be declaring personal interests,” he said, raising the interesting prospect of councillors who own cars having to declare a personal interest when decisions about parking are required.

Cllr Kelly Jackson-Graham described Feakins’ suggestion that cyclists in the group should declare an interest as “ridiculous”.

> “Biking Mecca of Wales” approved 

Another of the group’s members, Emma Bryn, said she was “gobsmacked” by Feakins’ comments and reminded her fellow councillor that he was also a member of the active travel group and therefore able to attend meetings to address his grievances there.

Bryn also pointed out that while some of the group were cyclists, it also included “many who have never cycled, a driving instructor, a partially-sighted pedestrian and a representative for the local walking club”.

Despite Bryn’s objections, council chair Terry Christopher proposed that the active travel group be disbanded and replaced with a sub-committee of the existing People and Places Committee. The proposal was accepted by six votes to four.

A statement released by the council later in the week said that the decision to replace the active travel group with a sub-committee “will allow all councillors to a part of the discussion” and “will ensure that all Town Councillors and members of the public remain fully informed and a part of recommendations made regarding active travel in our town.” 

The statement read: “The Town Council remains fully committed to working with Monmouthshire County Council in respect of current and future consultations, with groups such as Sustrans and with projects such as the Wye Pedestrian Bridge.

“More importantly, the Council believes that this change will enable the views of the local residents to be better and more fully represented when considering active travel in Monmouth.

“It is hoped that those who have supported the group to date will continue this support with the sub-committee.”

Earlier this month, Monmouthshire County Council formally approved funding to progress plans for a cycling centre near Abergavenny, the host of the British national road championships in 2014.

The proposed velo park will include training and racing facilities suitable for road, cyclocross and mountain biking, while recreational space will also be made available for families and leisure cyclists.

Welsh Cycling said the proposals “will further enhance Abergavenny’s reputation as one of the most successful cycling towns and destinations in Wales.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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16 comments

Avatar
peted76 | 2 years ago
3 likes

.

Avatar
Gus T | 2 years ago
2 likes

"Earlier this month, Monmouthshire County Council formally approved funding to progress plans for a cycling centre near Abergavenny, the host of the British national road championships in 2014."

Surely this horse has boltedangel

Avatar
brooksby replied to Gus T | 2 years ago
4 likes

That cycling centre was clearly intended to become the secret headquarters of the local branch of the Velominati...

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Hirsute | 2 years ago
3 likes

Is this newsthump ?

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EddyBerckx | 2 years ago
17 likes

Hmmmm sounds like this council has been infiltrated by a sleeper cell of motorists...

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Daveyraveygravey | 2 years ago
15 likes

This is almost a Gove-ian "we've had enough of experts". Fancy having an Active Travel Group...made up of people who actively travel?!?!

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chrisonabike replied to Daveyraveygravey | 2 years ago
8 likes

They'll be accusing the House of Lords of being a sleeper cell next!

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IanMK replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
2 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

They'll be accusing the House of Lords of being a sleeper cell next!

Wait 'til he hears about Select Committees.

Avatar
mdavidford replied to Daveyraveygravey | 2 years ago
1 like
Daveyraveygravey wrote:

This is almost a Gove-ian "we've had enough of experts". Fancy having an Active Travel Group...made up of people who actively travel?!?!

Ah, but they weren't supposed to be just working for active travel - they were supposed to be working for pedestrians as well.

sad

Avatar
S13SFC | 2 years ago
14 likes

Tory.

Shocked I am. Shocked.

Avatar
peted76 replied to S13SFC | 2 years ago
3 likes
S13SFC wrote:

Tory.

Shocked I am. Shocked.

My local Green party (!) and Labour party objected to the conservative councils off -road bike trail. They listened to the concerns of a local and vocal dog walking group. Basically a good old fashioned case study of NIMBYism in middle England.

Local councils have little to do with national political parties, they all work on their own agendas pandering to their own little world of homogeneous voters whatever leaning they have. The local councilors only turn to party politics when they look to print a colour flyer at voting time.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 years ago
21 likes

"Mat Feakins, a member of the Welsh Conservatives,......"

How totally unpredictable.

".....claimed that the group, by holding “clandestine” meetings away from the normal business of the council....."

Exactly as working groups are supposed, nay, mandated to do?

We all know that the fish rots from the head, but is there a single, competent, trustworthy, unbiased person in the tory party?

 

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fwhite181 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
3 likes

And he was a member of the group. Surely he could just have attended the meetings and reported back to the main council sessions, thus un-clandestining the working group meetings?!

Avatar
mdavidford | 2 years ago
13 likes
Quote:

"This group seems to have gone off and, almost like a sleeper cell, we've got a council operating outside of a council," Feakins said.

You mean to say the Working Group went off and worked as a group? Disgraceful!

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago
12 likes
mdavidford wrote:
Quote:

"This group seems to have gone off and, almost like a sleeper cell, we've got a council operating outside of a council," Feakins said.

You mean to say the Working Group went off and worked as a group? Disgraceful!

Yes I thought this was the whole point of council groups and committees, to have a sub group of people discussing issues and reporting back to the overall council.

When he talks about a sleeper cell it suggests a bunch of cyclists pretending they are drivers and taking over the highways department by stealth.

(not that cyclists should be excluded for highways planning)

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
11 likes

Dagnammit!

They're onto us!

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