GE2019 – Response from Conservatives
Response from Rebecca Pow, Conservatives, received 6 December 2019
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Q1. Taunton already has a cycle-to-work rate of 9 per cent, which is double the national average. But many more people would be encouraged to take to their bikes especially for work journeys (many of which are less than two miles in length) if the cycle network was more comprehensive. Around one quarter of the Dutch population cycle every day so there is much we can learn from their system. I understand that a Dutch-style roundabout is currently under construction in Cambridge so it will be important to monitor this closely and learn any lessons.
In our manifesto, the Conservatives have committed to support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together. We will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes. We will extend Bikeability – cycling proficiency training – to every child. And we will work with the NHS to promote cycling for healthier living.
As a committed environmentalist, sustainable transport is high on my list of priorities. Improving the cycling and walking network across Taunton Deane is an issue that I have been working on since my election in 2015 and I am keen to carry on this work to ensure that there is a safe and sustainable method of transport available to everyone. I have been a member of the All-party group for Cycling in Parliament and I also worked with local stakeholders to progress the town council to the second round of the Future High Streets Fund, a bid which included cycle and pedestrian improvements. Cycling has so many merits; it aids fitness, reduces traffic, gets us outside and is environmentally friendly. If re-elected I would continue to prioritise improved cycling infrastructure for Taunton Deane.
Q2. I have worked closely with the UK Green Building Council to transform the way that the built environment right across the UK is planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated. In addition, having secured Garden Town status with local stakeholders I pushed for a guide and vision document setting the parameters and engaging locals – this has been done with public consultation. I therefore realise how important it is to have up to date design guidance and I would press SCC to update theirs. TACC has a commendable plan to double cycling to work in 20 years and I fully support their endeavours though I believe if the entire community as well as local stakeholders works closely together we can go even further and build on Taunton’s 9% cycle-to-work rate, already double the national average.
Q3. Creating a successful framework of cycle and walkways will involve a joint approach from key organisations including Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council [sic], Highways England and local groups such as Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) and Cycle Somerset. There is also synergy with cycling in the new Garden Town Status for Taunton, which I was pleased to play a part in achieving and I pressed Somerset County Council for it to be linked clearly with their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure plan.
I remember trying to cycle from Chestnut Drive through Hilly Fields to Taunton centre. I ended up backtracking, ultimately having to join the main road at Holway Avenue. This is the kind of thing that puts people off cycling, especially parents with young children. I therefore would support the creation of cycle superhighways which among other things are designed to improve safety for cyclists.
Q4. I welcome that spending per head on cycling and walking has more than trebled since 2010, and that about £2 billion is being invested in cycling and walking between 2016/17 and 2020/21. This is through the Government’s Cycling and Walking Investment strategy, and through additional investments by local councils and metro mayors. I am pleased Central government is making more funding available as set out in our manifesto with a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes.
Bus services are absolutely vital for connecting communities, especially in rural areas. While sometimes they are not commercially viable, they often provide an enormous social good and we would be worse off as a society if we lost them. That’s why I am so pleased that we are committed to spending an additional £30 million to improve existing routes and restore lost services, making sure that no community is left behind or cut off. We’ve already made £250 million available to support these and will now spend an additional £30 million in 2020-21 to improve current services or restore lost ones. All of this investment of course relies on a strong economy which the Conservatives have competent plans to keep growing.
Q5. I have met many times with constituency groups like TACC and local residents to discuss opportunities that could make a real difference to cyclists across the county. These have included creating a safe cycle crossing at J25 of the M5 and developing a cycle route to Taunton from Bishops Lydeard to Cotford St Luke and Norton Fitzwarren. There are many other cycle and walking routes that could also be created or improved, for example consideration of a potential footpath from Massingham Park into Taunton town centre. A joint approach between local stakeholders as well as a voice in Westminster are vital for progressing change and if re-elected I would be as assiduous in this endeavour as I have been since I first went in to Parliament in 2015. I have also done significant work in Parliament on the health & wellbeing agenda. Increasing cycling rates will be an important part of this agenda, especially in terms of linking it with social prescribing, a subject that I was pleased to host an event on recently in conjunction with the Royal College of Physicians.