Essential Travel & Exercise – Consultation

Please read this Blog that covers information on the Spaces for People fund and how it might help Cupar in the coming weeks and months …

Background

At the end of April, the Scottish Government announced a £10m fund for ‘Spaces for People’ (increased to £30m a month later). The fund (via Sustrans) is for …

“temporary infrastructure to make it safer for people to
walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise”

Fife Council was aware that the fund was to be allocated quickly (it closed 3rd July 2020). They made an application which included contributions from some local communities. The Council was informed they’d been successful and were awarded £2.42m to support the whole of Fife.

We were invited to be on a call with Fife Council last Thursday (16th July): they told us …

  • A formal widespread consultation was not possible given the limited time available due the urgent nature of the funding availability and the lack of opportunity for more typical consultation given the lockdown period
  • The Council is still in the early stages of progressing this programme
  • Some of the outline proposals presented to Sustrans are more complex than others
  • There’s a need for more detailed community and business engagement to agree preferred solutions

The Council reassured us that “community and economic recovery is at the forefront of the Spaces for People programme” and that it is “focused on helping people, towns and villages function more easily and safely as we progress through the phases of the Governments route map“.

They informed us that – in many areas with limited shop space – “queues are forming outside premises, hence there is a need to consider amending street environments to help public confidence and promote economic recovery“. They have already been approached by some traders looking for extra space outside their premises – including traders in Anstruther, Elie and St Andrews – and the Spaces for People programme funding provides an opportunity to help deliver such measures.

Outline Proposals

The Council shared outline proposals and ran through them in more detail with those on the call last Thursday: that included the town’s elected Councillors, representatives from Sustainable Cupar, the Community Council, ABCD (the town’s Business Association) and us – CuparNow. We’d requested the call – via elected and officer representatives who sit on CuparNow’s steering group – to allow further discussion, understanding … and to enable this process: consultation with our audiences be they residents, businesses, community organisations or visitors.

We offered to share the list of outline proposals …

All the town’s representatives on the call expressed concerns that proposals – albeit outline – had been drafted prior to full consultation, but respected the timescales that had dictated Fife Council’s action to date, and appreciated the opportunity to engage now with the wider community to help shape the next steps.

Initial feedback …

In no particular order, some on the call questioned the need for increasing pedestrian space in the areas outlined – recognising that Cupar has good pedestrian spaces and pavement access in much of the town centre: there was a general understanding that the areas identified as pinch-points – mainly lower Bonnygate and Ladywynd – are too narrow to impose either traffic restrictions or increased pedestrian space.

The business perspective made clear the need to ensure no parking restrictions were imposed – especially at a time when the town is in a recovery phase and that recovery is very finely balanced. It was also made clear that many people in and around Cupar are still relying on friends, family and carers to collect shopping … so removing parking spaces would have an adverse impact on those who are the most vulnerable in our community.

The prospect of slowing traffic in the town – to ensure greater safety for pedestrians – was discussed at some length: the general view was a consensus around a 20mph limit on all major routes through the town. This was echoed by Sustainable Cupar. We are also aware that such views are on the back of recent press coverage that reported Cupar Development Trust’s support for a 20mph zone to be introduced. They issued a statement in June saying:

“Social distancing was difficult enough when the lockdown resulted in reduced levels of traffic. Now that traffic levels are returning to normal, the risks to pedestrians in particular but also to cyclists, are even greater. The Board of Cupar Development Trust therefore welcomes Sustainable Cupar’s call for reduced speed limits.”

What was very clear from Thursday’s call was that those representatives from Cupar welcomed the opportunity to seek greater feedback from as many in our community as possible, and CuparNow is very happy to help facilitate the process.

Your views …

We are on a very tight timeframe: the funding is for the immediate and medium term – and covers ‘temporary infrastructure‘.

Questions were asked as to whether there was flexibility on this and that, if Cupar requests support that will deliver benefits beyond the immediate-medium term, will they be considered. We were told that Sustrans would be open to all ideas.

How do I respond?

Urgently! We have to have replies by Tuesday 21st July at the latest to be able to share with Fife Council.

We are happy to collate all responses via this email link. In any emails, please give:

  1. Your full name
  2. Address (residential or business as appropriate)
  3. Your feedback on the outline proposals
  4. Ideas you have that can be added to the programme for consideration detailing:
    1. Location
    2. Destinations/Trip Attractors (the audiences who will benefit)
    3. Possible Intervention – the idea(s) to be considered
  5. A phone number if you are happy for the email to be followed up with a call

We have arranged a follow up call this Thursday (23rd July) where considerations will be given to the ideas and proposals received. So please make sure you email your responses no later than Tuesday 21st July. We will then collate into the requested format and forward to Fife Council. We will update everyone as soon as we can beyond Thursday’s call with any news.

Next steps …

Fife Council has assured us that the “focus is on allowing early progress on the measures agreed”. Allan Maclean, Lead Consultant Sustainable Transport and Parking, has told us: “We greatly value your input and look forward to working with the Community and Businesses as we progress through the Governments Route Map.

Please share!

Please feel free share this Blog article with anyone who has an interest in Cupar – be they a resident, business, employee, student or visitor. The more replies we receive, the better to help shape the next steps of this programme.

Further reading & background information if required …

We took time out this Saturday (18th July) to visit the town at lunchtime: compared with recent weekends, the town was busy – but we saw no evidence for the need to restrict parking nor to increase pedestrian space on Crossgate, Bonnygate or St Catherine Street. Shoppers and visitors were using common sense to socially distance from others on pavements as well as in shops and queues for the same.

Perhaps what needs to be considered is the implementation of infrastructure that will make Cupar’s town centre safer for all – and that should include revisiting some of Sustainable Cupar’s proposals for improved Active Travel.

The funding is detailed as specific to safety: that said, on our call with Fife Council, Service Manager, John Mitchell, (Asset Management and Sustainable Transport), told all that Fife Council’s deployment of the fund was to “help people, help business … and to create spaces for people to enjoy“.

The ‘here and now’ is key, but if investment can be made in infrastructure that has longer term benefits, all the better. After all, the Eiffel Tower was only a temporary installation when erected in 1889. It was then used for the deployment of wireless technology, proved too important to take down and is now holds the record as the world’s most visited tourist attraction. We’re not suggesting the same will apply in Cupar – but ‘temporary’ doesn’t have to be so if the benefits are justified.

More information on proposals for Cupar Cycle Routes can be viewed via this link – created by Sustainable Cupar with help from other cycle users in the area. It builds on work at the Charrette in 2016 when a network of routes was supported by feedback from the sizable community members who engaged at the time. Further information can be found on Sustainable Cupar’s and the group’s Active Travel plans via this link.

 

Thank you for reading.