The Portfolio Holder for Culture introduced the report which presented the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) 2020 – 2029, summarised its development and sought Cabinet approval for adoption. This would enable the Council to bid for appropriate funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) and other appropriate sources as it became available. The report also updated Members on consultation as part of the Council’s adoption of the Ashford Cycling and Walking Strategy, which demonstrated strong support for this approach. The DfT also supported the strategy and the emerging Ashford LCWIP and had allocated £500,000 to help deliver those local plans. Both documents would inform actions which the Heads of Planning and Development and Culture, in consultation with their Portfolio Holders, would prioritise, monitor and review.
The Deputy Leader commended the report and the work that had gone in to producing it and considered that Ashford Town Centre would be a much better place if more walking and cycling could be encouraged. He noted that KCC had been awarded £1.6m to spend on these types of projects, and one of the schemes highlighted in the press release had been Ashford’s Community Cycling Scheme which had provided 50 refurbished bicycles for NHS workers at the William Harvey Hospital. He considered that the report would be a launchpad for an even more comprehensive walking and cycling network across the town centre, as well as cycle safety, working with schools, the education sector and the Community Forums and Councils in the urban area. Another Member said he understood that the KCC money was an initial tranche of a wider £8m for their Active Travel Plan and he asked what steps the Portfolio Holder had taken to ensure Ashford got the maximum possible from that fund? The Leader advised that there were already one or two schemes in the pipeline to make a bid for that money and the Portfolio Holder assured that discussions were ongoing with KCC. This obviously fell outside the remit of the report on this agenda, but would build on the good work within in.
Other Members wanted to applaud the depth of work undertaken by the Officers and the Portfolio Holder over a number of years in producing this report. It was recognised as a work in progress in the sense that the town had a number of cycleways and footpaths, but they didn’t all necessarily join up, and one of the thrusts of the report was to start the journey to ensure a cohesive network for residents in the future.
A Member asked if there were any plans to look at the rural areas and Tenterden as she knew there was an appetite for such a plan there as well. Another Member asked about the decision not to include schools as ‘strategic locations’ and the rationale behind that. The Community Project Manager said that Officers had asked the same questions about schools when drawing up the strategy over a year ago and at that time the DfT had not included schools, but now they did. So, as the plan was a working document, it could now be reflected that schools were ‘trip attractors’ for staff, children and parents. This happened after the report was submitted last October, but would be reflected going forward. In terms of rural areas, the Portfolio Holder for Culture advised that the LCWIP was limited to the town area outlined on page 199 of the agenda, but he would be happy to share experiences with Tenterden Town Council and others who were interested.
That (i) the Ashford Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan 2020 – 2029 be approved.
(ii) the outcome of the consultation for the Ashford Cycling and Walking Strategy 2019 – 2029 be noted.
(iii) delegated authority be granted to the Heads of Planning and Development and Culture, in consultation with their Portfolio Holders, to put in place all measures that will enable the effective delivery of the Ashford Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and Ashford Cycling and Walking Strategy 2019 – 2029, developing action plans accordingly; and in consultation with the Director of Finance and Economy, and their Portfolio Holder, to allocate external spending that has or will be secured.