Thursday 25th September 2014 was the day that “Plan B” (as it’s come to be known) was voted through by the members of the New Forest National Park Authority. Plan B is to replace the very comprehensive and innovative New Forest Family Cycling Experiences proposal to the Department for Transport and Sustrans Linking Communities Fund.
The original plan included the following proposals to encourage cycling in the New Forest:
- Cycling centre at Brockenhurst
- Bike hire network with docking stations
- Pedal bus network
- Signage improvements
- Improvements to existing cycle and cycle hire facilities within the National Park
You can download a copy of the original plan here.
The original application aimed to develop the New Forest National Park as a premier destination for family cycling experiences. There was even an inclusion of a 2020 cycling vision:
To be the UK’s premier family cycling destination, with cycling normalised as the key method of getting between the communities, transport hubs and attractions of the National Park.
Back in early 2014, those of us in the New Forest saw this as a very promising and exciting venture that would pave new ground in promoting cycling as a alternative to the car. If nothing else, the New Forest really does need to find an alternative to the car, ask anyone visiting in the summer and the comments will be about the horrendous traffic coming into the National Park.
All was going well with the plans until August this year, when the NFNPA members decided to ‘veto’ the original proposal and come up with an alternative instead. This alternative plan, plan ‘b’, has the hallmarks of a group of people against cycling in general. It’s a complete reversal of the original plan, to such an extent that the new proposal even suggests spending £300,000 on facilities outside the New Forest National Park.
The ‘Plan B’ document can be downloaded here.
Some key points of the new, revised Plan ‘B’.
Proposal to repair the edges of 6 miles of Rhinefield Drive at a cost of £1.275M
- This is not needed or wanted by cyclists
- Will only benefit cars
- Will not increase cycle trips
- It is road maintenance
- ‘Road widening’ by stealth is a big issue in the Forest
- The damage being repaired was caused by motorists in the first place
Proposal to invest £300k in Moors Valley Country Park
- Moors Valley Country Park (MVCP) is NOT in the New Forest
- MVCP plays a role in keeping cyclists OUT of the New Forest. The DfT guidance for proposals was to increase cycling within the area where funding was to be awarded – ie the New Forest.
- MVCP is a commercial venture funded by car parking charges. It has no cycling links from the New Forest.
Proposal to resurface 16 miles of Forestry Commission gravel tracks. Replacing gravel gravel. £140k
- This is maintenance
- Will not lead to an increase in cycle trips
- The cycle track network in the forest is currently disjointed and of little benefit to cyclists
- Perhaps it would be better if more of the existing gravel paths were opened up to cyclists, linking more areas with better maps / signage. There are around 300 miles of gravel tracks in the New Forest, but currently, only 100 miles of them are open to cyclists.
A35 Lyndhurst to Ashurst cycleway improvements
- Again, this is resurfacing (see a trend appearing!)
- The route will continue to deliver a sometimes unnerving cycling experience when faced with 60mph vehicles coming the other way with only a few feet to spare.
This new revised Plan B seems to fall far short of the guidelines as set down by the DfT, as the funding is there to provide new, innovative cycling assets.
The DfT document can be found here.
Plan A gave the New Forest a ‘Golden Opportunity’ to not only provide some great facilities for cycling, BUT to kick start the process of changing attitudes towards cycling and cyclists in the New Forest. Plan B will do nothing in terms of changing these attitudes.
Last week, the chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority responded to criticism of their new Plan B on BBC radio. You can hear the interview below. We would love to hear your response to this in the comments section on this page.
Our aim is to get the NFNPA to go back to their original, innovative proposal to the DfT and not let this golden opportunity go wasted. Please write to your MP to ask them to look into the issue. We have put a template letter together here.
Please comment if you would like to add anything to the discussion.