New cycle lanes proposal is axed

PLANS to create new cycle lanes have been axed after civic chiefs were forced to cut £250,000 from their transport budget due to the squeeze on public spending.

Hartlepool Borough Council's transport team had planned to create new cycle tracks and lanes and improve signage across town.

But they have been forced to axe the scheme, which would have cost more than 200,000, in a bid to save 259,000 from this year's local transport plan budget.

It comes after the new coalition Government announced cuts of around 3m.

The 259,000 equates to 11 per cent of the overall transport budget for this year.

Labour councillor Peter Jackson approved the reductions in funding at a meeting of his transport and neighbourhoods portfolio.

He said it was a "very difficult" decision to take, but stressed that road maintenance and school safety schemes were the priority.

Coun Jackson also agreed to scrap walking schemes and workplace travel plans, which aimed to encourage people to use public transport or walk to work, worth around 50,000.

A motorcycle training scheme worth 20,000 has also been scrapped, while each of the town's three neighbourhood forums have seen their traffic management budgets cut by 2,000.

Alastair Smith, the council's assistant director of transportation and engineering, said: "In order to achieve the saving of 259,000 there are two main options; reduce the budgets of all schemes proportionately by 11 per cent or recover the cost from one or more individual schemes."

Coun Jackson said he didn't think it was fair to have a 11 per cent cut across the board.

He said: "It is a very difficult decision to make and I am sure that there will be more to come with the reductions this Government is going to bring.

"The bulk of the reductions is coming from the cycling scheme.

"That is for this year only and I would like the local transport plan to look at what we can spend next time year when it comes forward.

"I am not going to say that we will knock this on the head forever.

"This is a one-off situation that we have to deal with."

Coun Jackson, a keen cyclist, added that the money would have seen the creation of new cycling tracks around town.

He said: "The existing cycle tracks in town are in good condition, far better than in other towns that I have been in.

"The priorities are road safety schemes, safety around schools and road maintenance and potholes."