Saturday, 11 September 2010

Threat to Kenilworth Connect2 scheme (temporarily) averted

At the Warwickshire County Council (WCC) Cabinet meeting on 9th September it  was decided to defer the decision on whether to cut funding for the project.
Kenilworth councillor John Whitehouse put the case for continued funding. In the words of an email he sent:

My thanks to everyone who responded to my email on Tuesday by emailing Cllrs Farnell and Cockburn to express your support for the Connect2 Kenilworth scheme. The response was tremendous - beyond my expectations given the short timescale - and demonstrated the strength and depth of support for this project across many different sections of our local community.

I believe that your efforts bore fruit, and the immediate danger - that our project would be axed without proper debate - has been averted. At today's WCC Cabinet meeting I was able to make the case for continuing the project as planned (with the bridge) to completion, and was listened to. The upshot was that decision on whether or not to stop the project was deferred,and in the meantime we can continue to do work on the scheme.

Clearly I would have like an outright victory today, i.e. an irrevocable commitment to complete the project, but in the circumstances I think we achieved the best result we could have done. We now have a breathing space, probably of a couple of months.

There is a concern in the Cabinet that going ahead with a £400,000 bridge in these straitened times would look like an extravagance to the general public. After all, it's only for cyclists isn't it? (No it isn't - it's for pedestrians and disabled users as well, and for horse riders on other parts of the route). There seems to be a desire to complete the rest of the scheme, but why can't we settle for a toucan crossing over the Coventry Road instead?

The irony is that because Sustrans remain acutely keen for WCC to complete the scheme with the bridge as planned, they have offered extra help, but made it clear that a scheme without the bridge would no longer attract anything like the same amount of Lottery funding. In reality, if WCC wants to complete the scheme rather than leave the route part built, it will cost no more to WCC to build it with the bridge than without it!

Supporters of the scheme might think such a choice was a no-brainer, but these are difficult times and going to get worse, so public opinion cannot be ignored. Hence my belief that we need to spend the next couple of months demonstrating unambiguously the continued strength of public support for the scheme that they voted for locally in their thousands at the end of 2007. All ideas on how we can best do that would be welcomed.

Kind Regards,

John Whitehouse

Chair - Connect2 Kenilworth Steering Group

1 comment:

  1. From a second email from Cllr John Whitehouse:

    Despite last week's temporary reprieve it seems that Cllr Alan Cockburn, the Warwickshire County Council Cabinet member responsible, remains of the view that building the planned pedestrian/cycling bridge over the A429 Coventry Road would be seen as an extravagance by the public in these straitened times. This is despite a generous Sustrans offer of additional support, which would make it almost cost-neutral to Warwickshire County Council whether they completed the scheme with or without the bridge.

    How does he know what the public thinks? Supporters of the ‘Keep Our Greenway’ campaign in Burton Green have started a petition asking for the project to be completed as planned.

    A massive response to the petition will force the Warwickshire County Council Cabinet to reconsider. Under new legislation a petition of 1,000 signatures can be presented to the full Council, 1,200 signatures can require a debate by the Warwick Area Committee, while 5,000 signatures can require a debate by the full Council.