£2m cycle upgrade plans approved for New Forest

The New Forest National Park Authority has voted through plans on how to spend a central government grant

The New Forest National Park Authority voted through plans to improve cycling on Thursday, with a £2m grant from the central government.

The Authority will now have to put its plans in front of the Department of Transport for approval, with the intention of spending over half of the funds on improving roads through the centre of the New Forest.

The NPA said on the plans: “The scheme will ‘cycle proof’ an important route through the centre of the National Park. Upgrading road edges on both edges will create a consistent, high quality surface. Our funding would improve its safety and comfort for cyclists.”

The plans also propose spending over £350,000 on improving and creating off-road routes, including a new route near the town of Ringwood which the NPA says would significantly improve safety.

Under fire

But the NPA has come under serious criticism from cycling campaigners after it abandoned its popular plans to implement a Boris-bike style hire scheme within the forest.

Cycling blogger Tim Barry told the BBC on Thursday that the new plans were nothing but a "glorified pot hole repair scheme" and that the Authority should consider revisiting their original hire scheme ideas.

"It was such a good idea and now cycling has taken a real hit," he said.

"In the wider cycling press the thinking is the New Forest is anti-cycling. And yet the New Forest gets its main income from tourism".

The NPA has also been accused of rushing through its new improvement plans after it was set a deadline of March 2015 to implement the funding.

Chairman of the NPA Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre , responded to criticisms by saying the new plans were not "last minute" and that road maintenance would not be "run-of-the-mill."

"It [the road maintenance] will make it safer and more enjoyable for families to cycle," he said.

The plans now wait for full approval from the Department of Transport.

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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).