Saffron Walden: Essex Highways and campaigners hold “positive” talks over cycling route plan

POSITIVE talks have taken place between campaigners and highways officers to push along a long-awaited cycle and pedestrian route linking Saffron Walden to Audley End.

Last week Essex Highways officials met with representatives of Access Walden, Wenden Road Action Group (WRAG) and the cycling charity Sustrans to discuss proposals for a safe route along Wenden Road.

And they put forward an initial design – essentially an obvious shared cycle/walking path running alongside the road – which has largely been given the thumbs up.

However, costs associated with the scheme have yet to be investigated and all parties have been quick to stress that it hangs on the balance of a cost-benefit ratio.

Access Walden spokesman James Savage said: “Realistically the funding issue will be determined by the scheme’s viability but we are at least close to having a design that is shovel-ready.

“It was a really productive meeting and highways has shown serious engagement – we are moving in the right direction.”

Jane Gray, of WRAG, added: “It is a work in progress but it was a hugely positive and constructive meeting.

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“We all know the benefits of the scheme but it is pleasing to see that the two campaign groups are starting to come together to try and achieve the same goal.”

The proposed design came off the back of a scoping document which includes topography and traffic flow studies of Wenden Road, and comes more than 25 years after calls were first made for a safer ‘non-vehicle’ path.

Things now seem to be moving forward at a pace.

Just weeks ago a crowd of almost 1,000 people turned out for a Ride n Ramble to highlight the “urgent need” for a safer passage for cyclists and walkers.

And, conscious of getting the scheme approved, Access Walden has collected 500 pledges from people who have said they will use the path, either frequently or occasionally.

“There is real strength of feeling for this I think that highways is very aware of that public support,” said Mr Savage. “Of course there is a cost-benefit to the scheme but Essex has an �85 million transport budget and we need to show them that, while we are not Harlow, Chelmsford or Colchester, the disproportionate return would be favourable.”

Highways will now work on the finer points of the design, including the proposed modifications and potential costs, before bringing it back to the table early next year.

Essex County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, Tracey Chapman, said: “The feedback [from the meeting] was very positive and supportive of the current design. However, the scheme is still subject to a formal public consultation and this will be carried out early next year.

“Once the design is finalised, following consultation, Essex County Council and Uttlesford District Council along with the campaign groups will explore what funding options and opportunities are available.”