Council admits it acted unlawfully in removing cycle lane

West Sussex County Council unlawfully removed a Shoreham cycle lane in November 2020, just weeks after it had been built

Cycle Lane
(Image credit: Getty Images)

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has admitted it acted unlawfully in removing a popular cycle lane in the seaside town of Shoreham in November 2020, with a court ordering the council to pay £25,000 in costs to Cycling UK's legal fees. 

Cycling UK applied for a judicial review into the removal of the cycle lane, which served five schools and prominently featured in a government publicity video highlighting the community benefits of new cycle lanes.

The court order on January 25 and 26 confirmed WSCC acted unlawfully, which it also admitted to. Cycling UK announced it has agreed an out of court settlement with WSCC over the illegal removal of the cycle lane.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “In Shoreham, Cycling UK has drawn a line in the sand, showing there are repercussions for councils which ignore government guidance. Hopefully West Sussex County Council’s acceptance... will put a stop to short sighted decisions like this happening across other parts of the UK.

“This is a victory for people who want their children to travel to school in safety, for people who don’t have to breathe polluted air, and for everyone who would like healthier, safer streets where we live and work.”

Government grants awarded WSCC £781,000 from the Emergency Active Travel Fund in June 2020 for the installation of seven new cycle lanes to encourage more people to walk and cycle during the pandemic, among them the Shoreham  lane implemented in September of that year.

However, despite hosting 30,000 trips in its short existence, WSCC took the decision to remove the cycle lane in November 2020, just weeks after being built. The council then fully removed it in January 2021. 

As well as an out of court settlement, WSCC will pay Cycling UK's legal fees, amounting to £25,000. Cycling UK crowdfunded its legal challenge through its Cyclists' Defence Fund, set up to help fight battles benefitting riders in the UK.

Upon WSCC's admission of acting unlawfully, Cycling UK now hopes the newly formed funding and inspectorate body, Active Travel England, will ensure standards of cycling and walking infrastructure is upheld, meaning legal challenges will no longer be necessary. 

Dollimore added: “Challenging councils’ which act illegally by ignoring government guidance shouldn’t be the work of charities like Cycling UK.

“We hope Active Travel England will make sure councils not only promote cycling, but ensure they act lawfully and don’t waste public funds.”

Rowan Smith, lead solicitor on this case from Leigh Day, said: “This is a massive legal, as well as campaigning, victory that will benefit cyclists in West Sussex and across the country. Cycling UK has achieved a big win in upholding statutory guidance to embed more climate-friendly travel, which it hopes will contribute to a greener post-pandemic recovery. 

"Such great news comes in the wake of the Government setting up Active Travel England, a new body with powers to rank local authorities on the quality of cycling provision in their areas.”

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