Wirral Conservatives slammed over ‘Active Travel Taliban’ statement over walking and cycle route

Wirral’s council leader has hit back at suggestions by Conservative councillors of an “Active Travel Taliban” within the local authority.

Labour councillor Paul Stuart said “such derogatory remarks have no place in a civilised society” following criticism from the Tories over the proposed £10m Birkenhead to Liscard cycling and walking route coming to a Wirral Council environment and transport committee meeting next week.

The Conservatives argue “there is no desire for the scheme in Wallasey” and called it “a disaster for residents and all road users”.

The local authority voted to go ahead with plans for a cycle lane between Birkenhead and New Brighton in 2022 though it is only moving forward with phase one of the scheme for the time being.

The current plans are for a continuous route to run from Hamilton Square to Liscard with changes to 17 roads.

The scheme is currently projected to cost around £10m though this is based on a dated projection that the whole scheme extending to New Brighton would cost £18m.

The funding for the scheme is expected to be covered by active travel grants awarded to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority which are earmarked for improvements to help people walk and cycle but cannot be spent on other services.

Thousands of people were reached in a public consultation exercise but only 366 people responded with 45% in support, 44% against, and 11% neither.

Responses varied between wards with 75% in support in Birkenhead but 48.9% and 61.9% against in Seacombe and Liscard.

Overall more than 50% either agreed or strongly agreed the council should improve roads and footpaths “to help people who wish to walk and cycle achieve a more active lifestyle” as well as cycle and walk to nearby shops, schools, and work.

While some objections argued the routes would be little used, the committee report said more active routes delivered will increase cycling and walking.

The proposal was slammed as “bonkers” by the leader of the local authority’s Conservative group Cllr Jeff Green who said, “The views of residents are clear – this is a monumental waste of taxes. A scheme that does not command the support a majority of the people most affected is not, in my view, viable

“Wirral Council does not ‘know best’ – we exist to serve our residents and in spite of the ‘Active Travel Taliban’, residents remain opposed to the loss of parking, pedestrian crossings and trees that this scheme would require.”

Cllr Green also raised issues about “floating bus stops” following a meeting between councillors, Cllr Stuart, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People calling it “a recipe for disaster”. Concerns have been raised by groups about cycle lanes between the pavement and bus stops across the country.

Cllr Stuart said the scheme would still be subject to a thorough review and the scheme “encompasses more than just a cycle lane”.

He added, “Characterising this as a foregone conclusion and inferring that council taxpayers are funding this scheme only serves to spread unwarranted misinformation.

“Cllr Green fails to acknowledge that this grant money is earmarked explicitly for projects of this nature. Failing to explore grant funding opportunities in Wirral would constitute a squandered opportunity that would otherwise require the grant funding to be returned before any serious consideration has been given to schemes it has been awarded for.

“The proposal to move to the design and business case development phase is the next step, but it does not guarantee that the project will proceed to the on-site delivery stage. Further consultation and a compelling business case will still be necessary to demonstrate the project’s value for money to the Combined Authority.

“A future meeting of the committee will need to review this additional information to make an informed decision on whether to progress or not. It is not acceptable that Cllr Green resorted to labelling any individual, including our residents, as ‘Active Travel Taliban’. While people will have differing opinions, such derogatory remarks have no place in a civilised society.”

Image: Wirral Council

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