Blueprint of safe cycle route between Saffron Walden and Audley End gets mixed reaction

A BLUEPRINT for a safe cycle and pedestrian route between Saffron Walden and Audley End station received a lukewarm reception from councillors last week.

Essex County Council approached their Saffron Walden counterparts to get feedback on a design proposal aimed at resolving what has been a 26-year headache for town councillors.

It was confirmed money is available to proceed to the design stage but no funding has been allocated to actually implement the route.

Cllr Cliff Treadwell was not impressed to hear this, telling colleagues at a full council meeting last Thursday (September 12) that to pursue the concept further would be “a waste of time”.

“There are a fairly limited number of people pushing for this solution,” he said. “I won’t support this and would rather we invest time and energy lobbying Essex County Council for a ring road so that it can take traffic off roads in the town centre.”

Cllr Mike Hibbs said this would not solve the problem because parents taking their children to school were the main cause.

“I very much doubt a ring road is going to make a difference,” he said. “It’s appalling that despite Essex County Council’s policy to support cycle routes we only have about 40 yards worth on Thaxted Road and it leads to nowhere unless you want to go to the civic amenity site with your garden waste on your back.

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“We should have safer cycle routes in the town as well as to the station because parents are not going to let their children cycle to school – it’s too dangerous.”

He lamented the delay in a safe cycle route to the station and questioned whether the project was really moving forward.

“We have been here before where Essex County Council spent £30,000 on a feasibility study into what could be done to improve safety of cycling to the station,” Cllr Hibbs added.

“I’m horribly afraid this [indicating progress by moving to the design stage] is a way of burying the issue and they’re going to come back with a proposal that runs into millions of pounds. Then we’ll be told we can’t afford it.

“It is time they took this seriously and delivered on something that’s been going on for 26 years in this town.”

Cllr David Sadler agreed with Cllr Treadwell. He said “Without any money for the next stage we are wasting our breath on this.”

However, mayor Keith Eden reflected the opinion of most councillors saying at this point the proposal was not detailed enough to provide concrete feedback.

He said: “We do not know all the answers at this stage – that is part of the design brief.”

It was agreed to ask Essex to take the design further. Rosemary Wilkins, cycling officer at the county council, said the drawing presented to town councillors was only a draft and that it would be published officially in the coming weeks.

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for a safe pedestrian/cycle route between Saffron Walden and Audley End station, and in October 2011 nearly 1,000 people turned out to ‘ride and ramble’ along Wenden Road in support of a dedicated route.