OXFORDSHIRE County Council has lost out on £300,000 of Government funding to upgrade cycling and walking routes because it did not make ambitious-enough plans.

The Department of Transport told the council in May it could have £597,000 to cover such works, if it followed Government guidance on what those works should be.

The cash was specifically for projects to encourage cycling and walking while helping people to socially distancing after lockdown.

The county council started work on many of the projects, hoping that the Government would approve and give it the money afterwards.

In June, a group of councillors who promote walking and cycling around the county warned that the council needed to be more ambitious with its programme of works or risk losing funding.

Now, cabinet member for transport Yvonne Constance has admitted that Oxfordshire will only get £298,500 of the original £597,000 it was allocated.

Also read: Oxford bike theft 'epidemic' must stop, says family of 'devastated' schoolboy

In an email to councillors, Ms Constance said that the county’s ‘focus on distributing the investment equitably across the county, rather than targeting it solely on urban centres, had clearly been a factor in the DfT’s decision’.

The email added: “However, we strongly believe that our approach of boosting active and sustainable travel options for all our residents – whether they live in a town, village or city – is the right one.”

It is not yet clear how the council’s bid will affect a second pot of money it is expecting to be given by the Government for larger, longer-term road changes, which is worth £2.3 million.

There has been disappointment from cycling enthusiasts and opposition councillors.

Dan Levy, Liberal Democrat 'cycling champion' for West Oxfordshire District Council, was among those who raised concern about the council’s plans.

He said: "There was a simple set of instructions which the Government gave transport authorities for which they would essentially get free money.

"They have just failed to do what was asked of them."

Changes which have won funding from the Government include road barriers to create pedestrianised areas.

‘Pop-up’ segregated cycle lanes created by laying out traffic cones were also praised.

Mr Levy said he thought the council had done a good job by closing off roads in East Oxford, and also said work by West Oxfordshire District Council to make Witney town centre more pedestrian friendly should be celebrated.

Oxford Mail:

A map displaying changes in Witney. Picture: WODC

Oxfordshire County Council has carried out work for the bid by trimming grass verges on rural cycle routes, buying 130 new bike parking racks and resurfacing and repainting existing routes.

The funding was set to be spread across different areas of Oxfordshire equally.

Oxford City Council had expected to receive approximately a third of the £600,000, with South and Vale district councils sharing another third and Cherwell and West Oxfordshire sharing the other third.

City councillor Tom Hayes said his authority would go ahead with the £200,000 of projects it had planned despite the Government not paying for most of that.

He said: “The city and county councils have been working closely to reopen Oxfordshire’s economy in a safe way.

"As part of that we have agreed certain projects which would increase the number of people cycling and working, amounting to just under £200,000 from the first tranche of this funding.

"We look forward to moving quickly on this shovel-ready projects."

Read again about when 'cycling champions' warned about spending the funding

County council transport cabinet member Ms Constance said all planned work would still go ahead and still be paid for, and the county council would simply have to make up the extra £300,000.

She said this would not leave the council ‘out of pocket’, because funding for the schemes had already been budgeted for in existing highways plans.

Oxford Mail:

Yvonne Constance

Ms Constance said: “We always took the view that this is not a lot of money. It was an unexpected amount of money but we were going to make it part of the big maintenance programme and the big cycling strategy Oxfordshire already has.

“We simply regarded the Government contribution as part of a wider overall spend.”

She added that Oxfordshire had a more ‘permanent’ set of plans than other areas which had received full funding.

She gave the example of Leicester, which has laid out cones to provide a segregated cycle path for hospital workers, and compared it to the £17m Access to Headington project, which had provided a cycling commuter path to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

A spokesman for the county council added that the funding represented ‘just one source of funding for our overall programme to increase cycling, walking and active travel overall’.

He added that the council was ‘developing ambitious plans for the second tranche of Government funding in order to secure as much additional investment as we can for Oxfordshire residents.’