Sustrans Connect2 has won The People?s £50 million Big Lottery contest, after the biggest ever-public vote it was announced at lunchtime today.
?It?s fantastic, and a massive relief,? John Grimshaw, founder and CEO of Sustrans, told Cycling Weekly as his HQ staff in Bristol celebrated. It was the successful climax to months of canvassing explaining Connect2?s vision to the nation ? which is to build cycling and/or walking paths across the roads, river and railways, which currently divide 79 communities across the UK.
In the final reckoning, the winner was decided by television vote on ITV1, following their four nightly programmes about The People?s £50 million Lottery Giveaway. In this, Connect2 and the three other project finalists, the Eden Project in Cornwall, Sherwood Forest?s regeneration and the Black Country Urban Park, each had a 15-minute slot to win public support.
?Winning was a massive relief because 79 communities around the UK depended upon this,? said Grimshaw. ?It?s going to make such a change, create one million cycling or walking journeys a week. People will wake up one morning and say, Hey; I can now cycle or walk to where I want to go.
?My hope now is that Connect2 will mark that point in Britain when cycling and walking become recognised and accepted as the means by which a great many people want to travel. That it will be a catalyst for change.?
Grimshaw has another fervent hope. That Archie Robertson, the CEO of the Highways Agency, will now give the OK for two Connect2 schemes currently being denied by the Department for Transport.
They are Dogs Bridge at Bovey Tracy, where Sustrans want a tunnel under the A38 and at Wilton, near Salisbury, where they want the trunk road narrowed for 400 yards to give a wider footway for shared use.
?We?ve are having major rows with the DfT over this,? said Grimshaw.
?There are some wonderful bridges waiting to be built, at Northwich for instance, and many other places. ?Communities are divided by barriers. We aim to connect them.?
On notifying the winning project, the Head of the BIG Lottery Fund, Sir Clive Booth said: ?What an amazing nail-biting journey these contestants have been on. Over the last two years they have entered whole-heartedly into the spirit of the competition.
?It has been a great privilege to have been part of this ground-breaking initiative. We have all been impressed by the innovation and energy with which all of the projects have reached out across communities and brought their vision to public attention.
?At the Big Lottery Fund, we wish of course that they could all be winners. But we trust that the investment we have made in the development of each project?s plans will pay dividends for years to come.?
The People’s £50 Million Lottery Giveaway: www.thepeoples50million.org.uk.