Leamington business leader questions if £5m package for town centre cycling route is needed
The bid centres on four key areas including the creation of a creative hub in Leamington Town Hall, the development of Spencer Yard and 5.5km of new cycleways
A Leamington business leader has questioned whether a £5m package for creating cycle routes through the town centre should be part of a council bid to boost business in the area.
Councillors at this week’s full council meeting of Warwick District Council voted to plough on with their submission to the Future High Streets Fund - a government initiative worth nearly £15m.
The bid centres on four key areas including the creation of a creative hub in Leamington Town Hall, the development of Spencer Yard and 5.5km of new cycleways.
A report before the meeting explained that the improved cycle connectivity would build on the Kenilworth to Leamington K2L route and investments in Emscote Road, Station Forecourt and Victoria Park/ Commonwealth Park.
It added: “This project will deliver 5.5km of cycling routes through the town centre to improve connectivity and sustainable transport options. In doing so it will help address air quality issues and improve connectivity. In this way, funding from MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] will create vital new connections to key public transport infrastructure and facilities and enabling access to the town centre by means other than the car.”
But the document also highlighted concerns raised by town centre businesses.
It added: “There will therefore be a need for detailed consultation with local businesses to ensure that proposed cycling routes do not have a negative impact, particularly on town centre retail businesses.”
Those concerns were echoed by Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington - the business improvement district for the town centre.
In correspondence to council bosses including chief executive Chris Elliott and leader Cllr Andrew Day, she explained that while she was pleased to see some stakeholder concerns had been reflected in the report, she insisted that these went beyond ‘town centre retailers’.
She noted that there was no evidence of a need for the cycleways and added: “Paths do not and will not connect to neighbourhoods so how will people bike here? A sustainable transport plan is not simply about ‘cycle paths’, but policy and all travel modes.
“There are other funding sources for cycling.
"FHSF should be used for things that benefit our high street businesses - £5m is a massive amount to spend on one very small user group in this location.”
But councillors agreed to submit the bid.
Cllr Ian Davidson (Green, Leamington Brunswick) said: “I am very supporting of this Future High Streets Fund bid, I think it would be excellent in many ways.
“I am very enthusiastic about cycling and I am also keen about the use of the Town Hall because it is something that we have not really found a viable use for.”