Monday, December 17

Sustrans National Lottery win - Pig in a Poke?

Lacking comment elsewhere within the UK outdoor blogging community (unless I've overlooked someone) here's my personal thoughts on the award last week of £50 million to Sustrans’ Connect2 project from the Big Lottery Fund to invest in walking and cycling UK-wide.

When the award was initially announced my reaction was - so what's that to me? I've been aware of Sustrans for some time now, but associated the group mostly with cycle routes. Not a huge interest of mine, but it sounded like a positive move - money to help with access to the great outdoors.

Now with anything related to the "National Lottery" my main reaction to that these days is by now pretty negative.

Why when I attempt to buy my Saturday paper/smokes do I somehow end up queueing behind a string of punters intent on buying multiple combinations of Lottery tickets and Lottery scratch cards - does anyone besides myself actually buy goods in a newsagents these days?

Furthermore I'm not against gambling per se. Indeed last week saw me spending sometime in the local casino during an evening's entertainment (And there's plenty I could write on the plain evidence of the dissociation of the ardent gambler from the surroundings and people around them. A very scary and extreme phenomena to observe for an occasional punter like myself)

But as for the national lottery being a "good" bet - hardly good odds to be honest, but back to the plot....

Sustrans successful bid was "to build a national network of cycle and walking routes". A laudable aim.

And then came news of certain alleged shenanigans with the voting. Oh right. What a surprise. Hasn't the recent rash of TV voting scams really already made the point on this. And frankly if I was involved with a charity seeking a donation of this magnitude I would make darned sure all my friends, relations, passers-by etc etc etc voted for my team using whatever means were provided by the donating organisation. But it seems that this has upset some folk as to the fairness of it all.

But despite the controversy let's stand back and look at all the candidates up for the cash - Eden Project: The Edge; Sherwood: The Living Legend; Black Country Urban Park; Sustrans: Connect2;

Three out of the four offering locally based projects.
And the winner - well that would be the only one with a nationally based project. Small wonder they received more votes really bearing in mind the increased number of people that their project could potentially influence.

So to the delivery plans of the winners to see just how this affects my outdoors access. After a little more digging into the detail behind Sustrans plans I must admit I'm still very unclear on quite what they intend to deliver. No great projects - just lots of joining up bits. And the more I look into the local initiatives, the more unsettling they become being aimed at semi-urban routes, possibly intending to influence some of the local population to walk/cycle to their destinations. But I'd guess more aimed at those lardy arses who think it fine in principle but won't bother to use the facilities anyway, save for an occasional trip with the kids at the height of summer.

I'm trying hard not to get too scathing here after looking at the local project nearest to me. For it proposes provision of a cycleway from a rural area with a very small population, but potentially many airport workers, into the built up areas of Bournemouth. But there's a few drawbacks here.

Firstly - the route already exists on the ground, mostly over existing country back roads, and a bridge across the River Stour. In fact I cycled the route over ten years ago. So its not about provision of anything new. Just upgraded somewhere I'd assume.

Secondly if the route is upgraded it has the potential to increased cycle traffic along paths currently trod mostly by the dog walking brigade, and at one pinch point a number of fishermen. No potential for an increase in conflicting usage here then - wandering dogs, men with expensive fishing gear lying the ground, and cyclists at an increased speed.

Thirdly, the main beneficiary should be the airport workers. But frankly I'd be surprised if many of those not already using the route would choose to do so after its been upgraded (whatever that entails)

And finally - this is not to cover the whole route indicated on the map - but just that piece marked in red i.e. the pinch point referred to earlier. I'd guess that means taking a sometimes narrow and muddy riverside walk, aka locally as a peaceful summertime stroll. And creating a cycle track instead. Great news.

I'd love to be more objective here. To base my view on fact and details. But the plans are really rather sketchy at best, and also carry a couple of interesting warnings as to "the far reaching nature of the scheme" and "not a promise where the route will go".

Huh? So what was the money budgeted for in the £50 million bid then?

In fairness I'll leave this for the present until more detail arises once this project starts on the ground.

But as a walker I fear perhaps the Sustrans bid doesn't really represent much of importance to me and may in fact deter me from using this particular area in the future.

More to come on this I'm sure.

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Comments:
I was brought up in this area so I know it well, and like you I can't see any benefit to it. I have heard a rumour of a new crossing at Pig Shoot which is the ford just to the East, but I don't see any mention of that on the Connect2 site.
Jon
 
We're thinking along the same lines there Jon - and the thought of moutain bikes whizzing off the road and down that stretch could get VERY interesting.
Splash. If you take my point
;-)
 
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