Conservative councillors meet over future of Harlow’s cycle tracks
News / Sat 4th Jul 2020 am31 09:38am
HARLOW’S four Essex County councillors have agreed what the claim is a way forward for the maintenance and future development of Harlow’s cycleways.
Cllrs Hardware, Johnson, Souter and Garnet met with Cllr Keven Bentley, the cabinet member for infrastructure at Essex County Council (ECC), last week to discuss not only the current network but the strategy for its future enhancement.
Cllr Hardware, county councillor for Harlow West, said: “Harlow is blessed with one of the most comprehensive cycleway networks in the country, but there are certainly issues with some parts of it.
“We have asked Cllr Bentley to look at the most serious problems and address them as a matter of urgency. We will be working with the various cycle groups to identify these so they can be repaired.”
In the meantime, ECC officers are currently inspecting all cycle paths across Essex in preparation of a comprehensive maintenance programme going forward.
There is work being done by ECC officers, Harlow Council and the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) team to create a transport plan and a comprehensive cycling strategy for the town. This will include enhancement of and additions to the network.
“Harlow is now a garden town,” continued Cllr Hardware, “and is set to grow significantly over the coming decades. A key part of the aims of the garden town is a shift to more sustainable forms of transport, cycling being key. A compressive and well-maintained cycle network is crucial to the delivery of those aims.”
Government investment in infrastructure in the garden town has already been promised: a £173 million Housing Infrastructure Grant has been made. The grant will facilitate links from Gilston villages including the first section of the Sustainable Transport Corridor to the town centre, incorporating new bus and cycle ways and prioritised junctions. Other early improvements will be the cycleways eastwards from the town centre towards Old Harlow.
The Government recently announced a COVID-19 cycling facilitation fund, of which Essex has received £1million. The money was specifically for high streets and other roads in towns and cities where there were issues around shops re-opening and social distancing.
Cllr Hardware said: “As Harlow does not have such roads, we asked ECC to request whether the maintenance of existing cycleways could be included instead. The request was made but unfortunately this was declined as this was not the aim of this fund.
“Nonetheless, the leader of Harlow Council made much of submitting a bid for a significant proportion of that money, over £200k, to repair the existing network. Unsurprisingly, it was declined by ECC for those same reasons.”
Harlow’s four county councillors will be working with ECC to ensure the most serious issues with Harlow’s cycleways are repaired and that there is a programme of maintenance going forward. More importantly, the Government, ECC and other bodies are all investing large sums into Harlow in the future, and “significant money” will be used for cycling.
ECC will be working closely with Harlow cycle groups and other stakeholders during the planning for these and other enhancement of the cycle routes.
Councillor Hardware might well be accused of misleading Harlow residents again in this article. Many will remember him protesting that there were no cuts planned to school budgets before the 2017 general election only to find out post election that per pupil was being cut. Councillor Hardware should have known this because at the time of his denial he was a Governor of Passmores academy and as such he should have seen the budget. In this article Councillor Hardware claims Harlow Council only put in a bid to use the “safer cycling” money after ECC had already ruled this out as a possibility. As a County Councillor Hardware should know that prior to our bid being rejected, Harlow Council was actually working with Essex County Council and the garden town on preparing the bid and the flat refusal to act on repairs came after the losing bid was submitted. Nonetheless it is great to see that Harlow's Tories are finally recognising that something needs to be done about Harlow's cycle tracks. Keen cyclists and other users of the cycle tracks will think its a shame that this is the first time in three years of office that our four Tory County Councillors have bothered to publicly address the issue. I look forward to the being told the detail of the plan, better still I look forward to the serious safety issues being resolved with immediate repairs being made
I think Cllr Ingall might well find that the criteria for the use of the grant was set by the Government and not Essex County Council. It was to facilitate the safe re-opening of shops and protect people on busy streets where that was an issue, such as high streets. I am sure Harlow council will be putting in bids for further grants which are more appropriate as they are announced by Essex County. We are all well aware of the good work going on collaboratively between Essex County Council, the Garden Town team and Harlow Council. In fact, many are also involved and it has been going on now for some time. It is important, however, we come up with credible and achievable aspirations which the whole town can get behind.