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Councillor slams active travel consultants who “dream up schemes more at home in large cities than small historic towns”

Plans to create a “high-quality” cycling network in seven towns across Shropshire were also dismissed as “mad and impractical”

A councillor in Shropshire has argued that plans to improve cycling and walking infrastructure in seven market towns across the county, which he claims have prompted over 1,000 comments from residents, are evidence of “what goes wrong when outside consultants are brought in to dream up schemes more at home in large cities than small, historic towns”.

Andy Boddington, a Liberal Democrat councillor who represents Ludlow North in the Conservative-controlled Shropshire Council, says he wants to promote walking and cycling, as well as measures to ease traffic pressures in Ludlow town centre, but insists that some of the council’s proposed active travel schemes are “madness” and “impractical”.

The proposals, which are currently under consultation until 16 June, form part of the long-term Shropshire Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which aims to deliver improved active travel measures over the next decade in seven key market towns across Shropshire, including Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Gobowen, Church Stretton, Market Drayton, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, and Whitchurch.

According to Shropshire Council, by delivering a “high quality” network of cycling and walking routes, the plan will improve access to key destinations, grow local businesses, reduce carbon emissions, and promote healthier and sustainable travel choices.

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However, Lib Dem councillor Boddington has called on the council to deliver a scheme “more sensitive” to the needs of the county’s historic towns, and says he has received hundreds of comments from local residents concerning the proposals.

“Not all the comments have been friendly in tone. Please don’t shoot the messenger. Please don’t assume I support the council’s position. I don’t,” he wrote on his blog.

Boddington claimed that the current plans “show what goes wrong when outside consultants are brought in to dream up schemes more at home in large cities than small, historic towns like Ludlow.”

He continued: “There was no consultation with the local community and councillors while the plans were being drawn up. If there had been, then Shropshire Council would have realised that some schemes are madness, some are impractical, and some would meet strong local opposition.

“The strongest opposition has been to proposals to close King Street to traffic. It is very narrow and the pavements more so. If it is closed, along with High Street as the consultants suggest, access to the town centre for buses and deliveries would be blocked. We closed King Street during the pandemic but even with the low traffic volumes then, it led to traffic problems in other areas of the town.

“I would welcome a trial closure of King Street on Saturdays. We should also work to reduce the amount of traffic using the street.”

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The councillor also argued that there is “no consideration of disability in the plans”.

“More than one in five people in Ludlow are disabled,” he said. “That rises to one in three for those aged 65 and over. In this day and age, it is wrong to develop and plans for getting around and about without putting disability at the centre.

“Walking and cycling schemes work well in cities and large towns, where there is space to segregate cars and vans from cycles and pedestrians.

“We need to improve walking and cycling proposals in Ludlow and the surrounding area. We need plans that are more practical and more sensitive to the needs of our historic town and its residents.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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