The Billing Road Corridor is a key campaign issue, because West Northants received £1.3m government funding in 2020 to create this Active Travel route, which would be the town’s first proper cycle route into the town centre. Yet they have done nothing with the funding, except to install a few cycle counters.
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Dear Councillor Larratt
I am writing about Active Travel in Northampton, and specifically about the Billing Road Active Travel Corridor.
Far from being a niche issue, Active Travel is a central part of government policy. The Department of Transport’s (DfT) Gear Change document points out that urban traffic is increasing at an alarming rate, with 40% of journeys under 2 miles being done by car, causing crises of congestion, air pollution and CO2 emissions. In addition, obesity caused by inactivity has become an epidemic – the DfT states that 1 in 6 early deaths are caused by inactivity.
Quoting well-established evidence, Gear Change states that providing safe, convenient and direct Active Travel routes changes habits by making walking, cycling and wheeling the obvious first choice for many people to travel to work, to school, and to the shops. This leaves the roads less congested for those who are unable to walk or cycle.
The DfT has set the target for half of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030, and it is helping councils to achieve this through a significant amount of funding for infrastructure.
Funding of £1.3m was secured for Northampton in 2020, specifically for the Billing Road Corridor, as described on the West Northants Council website.
As you are aware, the original consultation on the scheme was abandoned after a petition was signed by 1800 people (less than 1% of the town’s population) who objected to the Billing Road section of the route being made one-way for cars.
With the consultation abandoned, the remaining 99% of the population had no say. However, the council said that they would draw up alternative plans for the Billing Road section, and then consult on these. That was in 2020, but still nothing has happened.
In the meantime, towns and cities outside Northamptonshire are moving ahead with new Active Travel routes, while Northampton falls further behind, with no safe cycling routes at all into the town centre.
Having more people getting round by cycling, walking or wheeling makes towns better for everyone, and it’s popular – an independent survey commissioned by the council in 2021 found that most Northampton residents want more space to be allocated on our roads for Active Travel, and more priority should be given to people walking, cycling or wheeling.
Please would you let me know the steps you are taking to progress the Billing Road Corridor, and when we can expect to see the scheme completed.
Many thanks and I look forward to your reply.