Cycling UK has won an appeal against the decision of a High Court judge to refuse the charity permission to seek a judicial review of West Sussex County Council’s decision to remove a popular emergency cycle lane in Shoreham-by-Sea.
The pop-up infrastructure featured last year in a Department for Transport (DfT) video showcasing emergency active travel projects funded by the government and being implemented by councils across England in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Installed with the help of £781,000 in funding from the DfT’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, work on the segregated lanes on Upper Shoreham Road began in September last year and saw levels of cycling treble, with the facility particularly popular during the afternoon school run.
However, before it was fully completed, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for highways, Roger Elkins, ordered the removal of the lanes, despite the council’s scrutiny committee voting 6:2 for him to reconsider his decision.
A Freedom of Information request by local campaign group Shoreham-By-Cycle later revealed that he had never officially visited the facility prior to ordering its removal.
In its application for a judicial review of the decision, Cycling UK had argued that the council:
failed to take into account or comply with statutory guidance issued under the Traffic Management Act
acted irrationally given that WSCC’s own information did not support the reasons given for removal of the cycle lane and
breached the public sector equality duty (PSED), particularly given that it had information showing the scheme was especially beneficial for children accessing local secondary schools.
However, in a High Court hearing on 26 May, Mr Justice Lane refused Cycling UK’s applications for permission to pursue the judicial review.
The charity learned earlier this month that its appeal of that decision to the Court of Appeal had been successful.
Duncan Dollimore, the charity’s head of campaigns and advocacy, said: “Cycling UK is delighted the Court of Appeal agreed that the issues raised in this case, especially the requirement for highway authorities to properly consider the government’s statutory guidance, must be fully considered.
“The reallocation of road space to people waking and cycling is a key element of the government’s statutory guidance to reallocate road space for cycling and walking,” he continued.
“Cycling UK believes West Sussex County Council failed to have regard to or comply with that guidance when making the decision to remove the cycle lane.
“This case has implications beyond Shoreham, because if councils can ignore this guidance with impunity, the government’s ‘Gear Change’ vision to get more people walking and cycling will be stuck in first gear.
“Councils should not be at liberty to ignore national policy commitments and carry on regardless, prioritising motor traffic at the expense of active travel while paying lip service to their own sustainability, environmental and climate-change commitments,” Dollimore added.
The costs of the appeal, as with those of the original action, are being borne by Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund, which it says “helps fight significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those which could set important precedents for the future and could affect the safety of all cyclists.”
As we reported yesterday, next week sees the conclusion of an engagement period over a six-mile cycle route elsewhere in West Sussex, between Chichester and Emsworth, which is being funded by National Highways (formerly Highways England).
However, the council will not be getting any active travel cash from central government this year as a direct result of its removal of the cycle lane in Shoreham-by-Sea.
In June, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to West Sussex County Council to inform it that it would not be eligible to apply for DfT funding for active travel schemes during 2021/22.
He told Paul Marshall, the leader of the Conservative-run council that “the schemes delivered under tranche 1 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund were not allowed to be fully tested and/or optimised before the schemes were removed.
“This was not a good use of public money and means that your authority will not be invited to bid for any new capital funding this year.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.