Safe pedestrian and cycle path between Saffron Walden and Audley End gets approval from town council

11:41 14 March 2014

Hundreds of people cycled, scooted and walked the Wenden Road in support of Access Walden

Hundreds of people cycled, scooted and walked the Wenden Road in support of Access Walden's Ride n Ramble last October. Picture: Joe Higham

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Town councillors have backed a proposal for a safe pedestrian and cycle route between Saffron Walden and Audley End station.

Hundreds of people cycled, scooted and walked the Wenden Road in support of Access Walden's Ride n Ramble last October. Picture: Joe HighamHundreds of people cycled, scooted and walked the Wenden Road in support of Access Walden's Ride n Ramble last October. Picture: Joe Higham

A round of applause rang out after members voted eight to five in favour of the £200,000 Wenden Road scheme at a packed full council meeting last night (Thursday).

The motion had its detractors, Cllr David Watson and Cllr Cliff Treadwell among them, and mayor Keith Eden did issue a stark warning to campaigners from Access Walden.

“We need to be minded that this is taxpayers’ money,” he said. “Every household in Uttlesford would have to pay £7.50, which possibly galls a bit if you live in somewhere like Stebbing.

“It represents a one per cent cut in Council Tax for the next five years.”

"Our approval has to come with the obligation that when this is built, we don’t see 10, 20 or 30 more cyclists. Unless it’s a 10-fold increase from 50 to 500 it’s not worth doing it"

Cllr Keith Eden, Saffron Walden mayor

He added: “Our approval has to come with the obligation that when this is built, we don’t see 10, 20 or 30 more cyclists. Unless it’s a 10-fold increase from 50 to 500 it’s not worth doing it.

“There is an obligation on all those in this room that it gets used,” Cllr Eden told the 40 members of the public who turned out to hear the debate.

“We need to make sure we’re not here in 10 years’ time with an asset, like certain footpaths in the area, including the one between here and Epping, that no-one uses.”

Both Cllr Treadwell and Cllr Watson believed the scheme would “inconvenience” motorists. They also questioned whether a safer route would lead to an increase in the volume of cyclists and pedestrians using it.

“I do not support this proposal,” said Cllr Watson. “It provides something for the minority at a great cost and inconvenience to the majority – people who drive a car.

“We have to remember this has always been a road. It has been for hundreds of years. It’s not called Wenden Footpath or Wenden Cycle Path. It’s Wenden Road.”

Cllr Mike Hibbs has long been a supporter of a safer cycle and pedestrian route between the town centre and station.

He said: “It really is astonishing that the discussions around the table have not changed since this idea was first promoted 28 years ago.

“In the 1980s I said there would be a fatality on Wenden Road. Thankfully there hasn’t been, but only for the simple reason that many people do not use it for cycling because it’s too dangerous.”

Cllr Hibbs added: “We are changing. We are moving into a new world where cycling is going to play a bigger part than it has in the past.

“Saffron Walden Town Council has got to realise it is not 1986 anymore, it is 2014, and it’s high time we got behind this scheme and got on board to make it a reality.”

Access Walden spokesman James Savage made the group’s case prior to the debate. He told members they could create a legacy for this summer’s Tour de France visit by throwing their weight behind the proposal.

The plan is for a short one-way section with segregated facilities for walkers and cyclists on the north-eastern part of the route nearest to the town.

Essex County Council’s cabinet member for highways, Cllr Rodney Bass, is expected to make the final decision on the scheme in the coming months.

If approved, it is hoped that work could get underway by the autumn.

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