CYCLING ROUTES: Conservative Wirral councillors slate lack of consultation
Conservative councillors in Wirral have slated the lack of consultation over major plans for new cycling routes.
The Liverpool City Region is currently developing plans for many more cycling and walking routes across our region.
In Wirral, cycling routes connecting parts of the borough, such as a Birkenhead to New Brighton section, have been proposed.
Councillors were being asked to accept funding which totalled over £1.4m to move the plans forward at last night’s meeting of the council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee.
However, some members thought the first phase of the consultation, which took place last year, left a lot to be desired.
Cllr Andrew Gardner, who represents Hoylake and Meols for the Conservatives, said he was “amazed” to see a proposal which he thought would effectively close The Crescent in West Kirby.
Cllr Gardner added that he had some “real reservations” about the ‘active travel’ plans and the lack of consultation with councillors.
He felt unable to tell his constituents he had voted for a plan which contained the change to The Crescent, calling it a “nonsense”.
Fellow Conservative councillor Andrew Hodson agreed that some councillors feel there has been a lack of consultation.
Not all members of the committee felt this way.
Cllr David Mitchell, who represents the Liberal Democrats in Eastham, said he was fully consulted about a cycling route which went through his ward and was happy to support the proposals being debated at the meeting.
Sally Shah, Wirral Council’s acting chief regeneration officer, responded to the criticisms made by Conservative councillors.
Ms Shah said there would be more consultation and the cycling and walking schemes were not finalised yet.
The council officer accepted that the first round of consultation was not as thorough as it should have been and noted that it was taken forward by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) rather than by Wirral Council itself.
She pointed out that members were not being asked to agree to specific routes they may have concerns with, but were instead voting for more work to be done on the plans which would involve further consultation with residents and councillors.
As the process moves forward, Ms Shah said routes could be amended or withdrawn completely, confirming that the plans have not yet been decided.
Labour councillor Tony Jones, who chairs the committee, gave an undertaking that should certain schemes prove to be unsuitable they will be revisited.
Cllr Jones added that he would hate to see the money the council was being given for the plans disappear as there are so many parts of Wirral which need it.
In the end, the committee approved a proposal to move to the next stage of the process and accept the funding.
In a joint statement, a spokesperson for the LCRCA and Wirral Council said: “In the first phase of engagement on draft plans for a new walking and cycling route between Birkenhead and New Brighton we worked closely to engage with as many residents as possible.
“Almost 700 local people commented on the plans, although due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place there wasn’t an opportunity to conduct in-person engagement which may have meant some residents were not able to take part as they normally would.
“The feedback from this phase will be analysed and will inform the next version of the plans, including views on key issues like the impact on road infrastructure and on-street parking.
“This was the first phase of public engagement on the scheme and residents will have further opportunities to influence the plans as the project moves forward, with further detailed consultation set to take place later this year.”
The statement added: “When more information on this next phase of engagement and new draft plans are available, we’ll communicate this and let people know how they will be able to provide comment and feedback.”
“The new route will be part of a planned network of more than 600km new and upgraded walking and cycling routes across the Liverpool City Region. The aim is to allow more people to take journeys by bike safely and with confidence and better connect to other forms of public transport.”
Providing more detail on the plans, the spokesperson continued: “Subject to the final outcome of the engagement process, the route between Birkenhead and New Brighton won’t be a temporary, emergency bike lane but will instead be a high-quality, permanent route designed in sympathy with the surrounding neighbourhood.
“Independent research from cycling charity Sustrans and our own surveys show that a majority of residents, including motorists, support the building of new safe, segregated cycle lanes of this kind.
“But as individual schemes are developed, it is vital to make sure the views of residents are taken on board.”
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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