[Source: Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils]

Babergh and Mid Suffolk are among the first district councils in Suffolk to take the next step towards a sustainable travel solution, aiming to increase active travel and help tackle climate change.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are among the first district councils in Suffolk to progress a detailed Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP).

Last night, councillors at Mid Suffolk’s full council meeting welcomed the plan, which sets out the councils’ approach to improving and developing the local cycling and walking network across the district over the next 10 years. Its aim is to encourage and support residents in a more permanent shift towards more sustainable transport, playing a key part in reducing air pollution and supporting the districts’ Covid recovery.

The plan, which was approved by both Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ cabinets earlier this year, includes a list of almost 200 potential sustainable travel infrastructure schemes across the two districts. These have been prioritised based on Government-recommended criteria to help the councils bid for local, regional, and national funding.

Examples of the types of potential infrastructure projects included are:

  • cycle parking facilities
  • new pedestrian crossings
  • improved surfaces on footpaths and bridleways
  • segregated space for cycling alongside carriageways
  • junction reconfigurations to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety
  • accessibility improvements to the public rights of way network

While Mid Suffolk councillors welcomed the joint plan last night, Babergh councillors must wait until their next Full Council meeting in September.

The list of projects included in the plan was created following an extensive consultation last summer, which received almost two thousand responses, with residents identifying where they would like to see new or improved infrastructure.

However, further consultation and details will need to be considered before any schemes go ahead, delivered in partnership with Suffolk County Council.

There are also some larger schemes, such as on the Shotley Peninsula, which have been broken down into several elements to improve their viability and opportunities for funding over coming years.

By having a LCWIP in place, the councils can ensure local knowledge is at the heart of selecting and costing routes, and that they meet the needs and are in line with the visions for both urban and rural areas of Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

It also plays a key part in joining up several of the councils’ priorities and strategies, namely, their carbon reduction management plan, wellbeing strategy, and joint leisure, sport and physical activity strategy, which set out how the councils will support residents to lead active, healthy and more environmentally-friendly lives for years to come.

And it means sustainable transport will continue to be considered as part of future developments in the districts, and that Community Infrastructure Levy monies collected from developers are available for proposed initiatives.

Cllr Jessica Fleming, cabinet member for environment at Mid Suffolk District Council, said:

“I am very pleased that, alongside Babergh, we are one of the early adopters in producing a LCWIP in Suffolk. Getting to this stage, has involved a great deal of effort and public input. Residents have played a key part, after their fantastic response to our consultation last year, where we asked them to submit their ideas for walking and cycling infrastructure improvements.

“The LCWIP puts us in a good position to bid for funds and start the process of improving access to safer cycling and walking routes, helping to encourage school children to cycle or walk to school and others to leave their cars at home. 

 “Of course, there’s lots more work to do, and any schemes would still require further consultation with our communities and partnership working with Suffolk County Council. However, I’m proud of the steps we’re taking to ensure Mid Suffolk moves towards more sustainable and active travel, and remains a place people are proud to call home.”

Cllr Jane Gould, cabinet member for climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable transport at Babergh District Council, said:

“We’re ambitious in driving Babergh’s shift towards sustainable and active travel forward, and having a finalised LCWIP marks a significant milestone.

“Increasing the number of trips by bike and foot over coming years will be vitally important in our county-wide ambition to tackle climate change. Of course, there’s plenty more partnership working to do over the coming years to see schemes established, and we want our residents to remain at the heart of decision making when it comes to improvements, so any schemes will require further consultation and engagement with our communities.

“But, by ensuring we’ve prioritised and indicatively costed potential active travel routes and initiatives at this stage, we can ensure appropriate funding, such as through CIL, is diverted at the right time and to the right place – this demonstrates how development in our district can support our residents to have bright and healthy futures.”

The LCWIP is available to view on the councils’ website. It is set to be formally reviewed every three years; however, the list and prioritisation of schemes will remain dynamic depending on their viability and available funding.

Residents are still able to give feedback on the schemes included or make further suggestions for local cycling and walking infrastructure. Anyone wishing to get in touch can use the contact details listed on the councils’ website

The councils have also produced a Vision for Sustainable Transport. It provides the narrative and context for the LCWIP, and sets out how the councils’ aim to support residents in their journey towards sustainable travel, and increase opportunities for active travel.

More information on how residents can improve their cycling skills and road safety awareness can be found on Suffolk County Council’s website at www.suffolkroadsafe.com/family-cycling-sessions or www.mostactivecounty.com