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DfT orders New Forest National Park Authority to return £1.5m cycling cash

Government rejects 'Plan B' road projects for money originally intended for cycle hire scheme...

The New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) has been told to hand back £1.5 million of government money allocated for cycling after the Department for Transport (DfT) rejected two schemes it planned to spend the money on. One of those, accounting for £1.25 million, had been criticised as being more focused on road maintenance than on cycling.

The cash formed part of a £3.6 million grant that the NFNPA secured from the DfT last year, £2 million of which was originally intended to be spent on a cycle hire scheme in the national park.

The NFNPA decided to abandon that proposal in August, despite having spent £84,000 on a feasibility study and selecting a preferred supplier.

Instead it produced what it called ‘Plan B,’ which included the £1.25 million upgrading of Rhinefield Drive and developing cycling facilities at Moors Valley Country Park.

Campaigners, including Twitter user New Forest Cyclist in an open letter published on road.cc, questioned whether some of the proposals and in particular the ones for Rhinefield Drive, were legitimate use of money allocated specifically for cycling.

A spokesman for the NFNPA confirmed to road.cc this morning that those two projects, together worth £1.5 million, have been rejected by the DfT. Four smaller schemes focused on cycling and valued at a combined total of approximately £500,000 have been given the go-ahead.

Transport minister Robert Goodwill, whose responsibilities include cycling, said in a statement published on the DfT's website: "We hope that the decision announced today will reinvigorate the New Forest programme and help the project encourage cycling.

"We must do all we can to make sure our investment in cycling infrastructure supports schemes that matter to people and make a difference. That is why we have taken the decision to reallocate this money to other schemes."

An earlier comment from the minister, supplied via the NFNPA in a press release, had said that the DfT “acknowledges that whilst it may be disappointing news for the New Forest, this was a hugely ambitious project, and the decision taken represents one that achieves the best balance for programme delivery and value."

The four projects approved today need to be completed by September 2015. They are:

£140,000 for smoother, more compacted gravel surfaces on 25km of existing off-road cycle tracks through the heart of the New Forest. This will make journeys more comfortable for local and visiting cyclists and will be delivered by the Forestry Commission (FC)

£185,000 for a new 2km off-road cycle route from Marchwood to Eling, connecting the National Park with Southampton and Totton which will be delivered by Hampshire County Council (HCC).

£168,000 for 3km of bridleway improvements for more comfortable access to Fawley, Minstead and Emery Down, to be delivered by HCC and Countryside Services

£30,000 for a new 0.5km off-road cycle track at Ringwood, which will form part of the popular Castleman Way cycle route linking the New Forest with Poole. This will be delivered by New Forest District Council.

The NFNPA added that Mr Goodwill had given his support to a planned family cycling centre in Brockenhurst, to be developed subject to planning permission by local bike hire business, Cyclexperience. It will receive £150,000 towards the £301,000 cost of the project.

Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, the NFNPA’s chairman, said: “Our aim has always been to improve cycle routes and facilities to make it easier, safer and more comfortable for people to cycle to and around the New Forest for work or pleasure.

“We’re very pleased that four of the six alternative cycling projects have been approved by the DfT and that over £2m of the cycle funding will be spent locally.

“We’re obviously disappointed that two of the projects were not given the go-ahead but we respect the DfT’s decision.

“We believe the revised programme of cycling projects will encourage more people to choose the bicycle rather than the car as a mode of transport.

“That in itself will help improve people’s health and reduce congestion and carbon emissions, helping to protect the fragile and internationally-important landscapes of the National Park,” he concluded.

Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at national cyclists' charity CTC, which had criticsed some of the proposed spending, said:“Given how the New Forest authorities were planning to mis-use the Government’s cycling grant, it is regrettable but right that the Government should now withdraw it. 

"With the consultation now closing on the Government’s ‘Cycling Delivery Plan’ , this shows exactly why we need long-term ‘funding for cycling’, not rushed projects when Ministers suddenly find a bit of spare change.

“Meanwhile, CTC hopes this money will now be sensibly reinvested in well-planned cycling projects, not disappear into the black hole of the Treasury.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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27 comments

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Hensteeth | 9 years ago
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Could someone explain to me how it can cost £30,000 for half a kilometre of off road gravel path????
Someone is making a lot of money out of this!

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Pragma replied to Hensteeth | 9 years ago
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Hensteeth wrote:

Could someone explain to me how it can cost £30,000 for half a kilometre of off road gravel path????
Someone is making a lot of money out of this!

My thoughts exactly. We have experience of making Forestry Commission spec HGV-capable gravel tracks and even at that grade and 3m+ width I'd expect it to be less than half that cost for just 500m of track. I can't see any justification for HGV traffic on something intended for bikes so it should be significantly cheaper still ...unless it goes through some area/terrain that means normal rules don't apply?? (Sorry, I'm not familiar with the area so there may be a good reason why it will cost so much more, although that would beg the question as to whether it's the right place for a new cycle path?!)

IMHO it seems commonplace for grant-funded projects to be overpriced and often under-delivered.

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mrmo replied to Pragma | 9 years ago
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Pragma wrote:

IMHO it seems commonplace for grant-funded projects to be overpriced and often under-delivered.

wonder if any family members sit on any boards?

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Pragma replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
Pragma wrote:

IMHO it seems commonplace for grant-funded projects to be overpriced and often under-delivered.

wonder if any family members sit on any boards?

It does make you wonder sometimes, doesn't it?

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brooksby replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

wonder if any family members sit on any boards?

Good lord! You aren't implying that there might be some small element of favouritism and/or nepotism, in the allocation of government contracts? Perish the thought!

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Peowpeowpeowlasers | 9 years ago
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Now let's hope that £1.5M goes somewhere useful, like fixing NCR 62 across the Pennines and into Liverpool. That trail is an absolute mess.

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brooksby replied to Peowpeowpeowlasers | 9 years ago
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Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

Now let's hope that £1.5M goes somewhere useful, like fixing NCR 62 across the Pennines and into Liverpool. That trail is an absolute mess.

It won't. It will go back into the pot, and the government can claim that they saved £1.5m somewhere...

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Das | 9 years ago
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//img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121205194057/simpsons/images/e/e9/Nelson_Ha-Ha.jpg)

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crikey | 9 years ago
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Good job all that Cycle-to-Work money was spent on bikes that people ride to work, otherwise we'd have to be on high horses instead while we point out the issue.

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Initialised | 9 years ago
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Cycling 1 - NIMBYs 0

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mrmo | 9 years ago
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what does bridleway improvement mean?

I am guessing that it will mean a gravel surface?????

I don't mind non tarmac surfaces but in wet weather they can often be quite unpleasant if your trying to get from a to b and not just out for a pootle on the MTB.

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29erKeith replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

what does bridleway improvement mean?

I am guessing that it will mean a gravel surface?????

I don't mind non tarmac surfaces but in wet weather they can often be quite unpleasant if your trying to get from a to b and not just out for a pootle on the MTB.

IMHO it means improving access for the commoners\verders and forestry commission in their 4x4s and pick ups. Their just going to smooth some existing forest gravel tracks with a clay\gravel mix I think. IMO it'll make no odds to me or very many if any cyclists.

The cynic in me just says it's more of the same i.e. "lets label this route repair\maintenance for us, as a cycling thing and then we can save that money or spend it elsewhere."

People visiting the forest and planning on cycling off road don't expect motorway smooth.

they should have spend the money on joining up the disjointed and unconnected existing routes first. that would have provided far more value. The nonsense is there are huge amounts of wide gravel fire roads which cyclist are officially barred from, just opening these up would be free and hugely beneficial. There are other bits where routes just need an extra 5-10% here or there to join some bits up to make a really useful route but the Verderers\Commoners\NFNPA simply wont allow it.

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usedtobefaster replied to 29erKeith | 9 years ago
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29erKeith wrote:

they should have spend the money on joining up the disjointed and unconnected existing routes first. that would have provided far more value. The nonsense is there are huge amounts of wide gravel fire roads which cyclist are officially barred from, just opening these up would be free and hugely beneficial. There are other bits where routes just need an extra 5-10% here or there to join some bits up to make a really useful route but the Verderers\Commoners\NFNPA simply wont allow it.

Agree, agree, agree

Joining up the current hotch pot of disjointed "authorised" off-road cycling routes would be an excellent project to allocate funds to. Until that happens cyclist will simple continue to use paths they're not allowed to, that'll please the Verders  1

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ch replied to 29erKeith | 9 years ago
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> Their just going to smooth some existing forest gravel tracks with a clay\gravel mix I think. IMO it'll make no odds to me or very many if any cyclists.

Just more of the same old new forest

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notfastenough | 9 years ago
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I wonder, if the NFNPA were given a choice beforehand of funding for cycling projects or no funding, what would they have chosen? Because in trying for the so-called 'plan b', they've got nothing (leaving out the cycling projects which do have funding).

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matttheaudit | 9 years ago
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Round one to DfT. I wonder how many other "sustainable transport" schemes up and down the country have also turned into road building/maintenance programmes. A few more demands for the return of mis-spent grants might make local authorities take their duties a little more seriously.

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Paul_C replied to matttheaudit | 9 years ago
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matttheaudit wrote:

Round one to DfT. I wonder how many other "sustainable transport" schemes up and down the country have also turned into road building/maintenance programmes. A few more demands for the return of mis-spent grants might make local authorities take their duties a little more seriously.

correct, Turbogate for one
https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/turbogate-gets-weir...

and Perne Road roundabout for another...
http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/news/2014/10/19/cambridges-perne-road-...

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29erKeith | 9 years ago
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bikeandy61 - local resident here  103
The only people who've tried to rob anybody here, is the NFNPA trying to rob (Defraud) the DFT.

I'm sure most locals (ignoring the NFNPA Bigots) will wish it could have been spent properly locally, but I'd rather it were spent elsewhere well! than poorly here.

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bikeandy61 | 9 years ago
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Ah but just wait for the backlash from the NF residents. "We've been robbed by HM Gov of money for the popular pastime of cycling in the forest, shock, outrage!!! - oh hang on don't we hate cyclists?"  45

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Gus T replied to bikeandy61 | 9 years ago
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bikeandy61 posted

"Ah but just wait for the backlash from the NF residents. "We've been robbed by HM Gov of money for the popular pastime of cycling in the forest, shock, outrage!!! - oh hang on don't we hate cyclists?"

Damm, you beat me to it.  19  19  19

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sponican | 9 years ago
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Good.

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Airzound | 9 years ago
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Ha-ha!

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Wolfshade | 9 years ago
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I am actually quite pleased with this. Don't get me wrong, I would have rather the NFPA actually spent the money on what they had originally proposed. But the message from the Government is quite clear. If you recieve subsidy for cycling improvements it should be spent on cycling improvements and not for other purposes.

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il sole replied to Wolfshade | 9 years ago
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Wolfshade wrote:

I am actually quite pleased with this. Don't get me wrong, I would have rather the NFPA actually spent the money on what they had originally proposed. But the message from the Government is quite clear. If you recieve subsidy for cycling improvements it should be spent on cycling improvements and not for other purposes.

I completely agree.

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bikebot | 9 years ago
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I'm going to bet that the statement from the NFNPA will criticise the Gov't for failing to support cycling projects in the New Forest. I may even wager a packet of Haribo on it.

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29erKeith | 9 years ago
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Well done @NewForestCyclist (and others) just such a shame the the NFNPA couldn't have spent it properly

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Bokonon | 9 years ago
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Surprise surprise - government not happy that money intended for cycling is not being spent on cycling.

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