Sheffield fails to bid for Cycle City Ambition Grant money

P1050814.resizedIn January 2013 Norman Baker launched the Cycle City Ambition Grants, £30 million (later upped to £77 million, later upped by £114 million more) of funding for cities that showed the ambition to “make cycling easier and safer for people throughout England”

Sheffield was the only large city that failed to submit a bid.

What does this mean? Are Sheffield City Council and our Regional Transport ITA just not interested in cycling? Are we not ambitious enough? Do we already have enough money? Or are we just incompetent?

Back in April the Cycling Safety Junction Improvement funds were awarded, Sheffield did not submit a bid for this either – as noted by fellow local blogger Stan Fichele and even with Brookhill Roundabout highlighted by The Times as a dangerous junction for cycling.

Stan notes that Sheffield City Council were intending to submit a bid for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

However, you may be interested to know that it is our intention to make a bid for the Cycle City Ambitions Grant, the requirements for which are not quite so onerous.  I cannot, of course, guarantee success.

This never happened and I’ve been trying to find out why.

I asked at the Sheffield Cycle Forum. The council seem to put the blame squarely with the South Yorkshire ITA and washed their hands of it. I believe that if Sheffield were truly ambitious they would have submitted a bid independently of the ITA as Newcastle have done. The full statement from the Cycle Forum on 21st May can be found here. Cycle Forum Minutes 21May2013

In summary, the response said

  1. The Sheffield City Region have no cycle schemes to bid for
  2. We did apply for National Parks Bid money for the same scheme
  3. All the cycle schemes have already been funded through LSTF and National Lottery/Sustrans Connect
  4. We’ll have some schemes ready for funding applications in TWO YEARS

Sheffield have used up all the cycle schemes as part of LSTF back in 2010 and will have new ones ready in two years. This means that Sheffield will not have planned any significant new cycle schemes for 5 years. This situation is ludicrous! The statement describes these schemes as very recent, but we’re already three years on from the LSTF bids.

Sheffield City Council will have a hard fight on their hands if they think they can get away with failing to bid for funding opportunities for cycling (as with Ambition Grants and Safer Junctions) for the next 2 years. We must not let them be idle.
Sheffield have proven that they can apply for funding when they’re really keen, as is the case with the Pinch Points fund where £3m was awarded in May for a scheme to increase capacity on Penistone Road. A very similar bidding process was used.

The council try to say that all is OK because funding has been sought from the National Parks Bid. This is irrelevant, no application was made for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

It speaks volumes that the schemes could be so easily transferred to the National Parks bid – a funding source with tourism and recreation at it’s heart instead of door to door transport.

I visited the South Yorkshire ITA to ask a similar question. Nothing about the South Yorkshire ITAs decision not to bid had been discussed in a public meeting, I thought it was important to get it on the agenda – you can watch a recording of this meeting here. It is well worth a watch and there is a very interesting discussion about applying for this sort of funding as viewed by Local Authorities.

Key points from their response

Tom Finnegan-Smith – Local officer

  1. It was a difficult to reach a decision to not submit a bid
  2. Schemes intended for a bid didn’t meet the criteria from the DfT and no coherent package across the region
  3. Cycle in the National Park bid was submitted
  4. Submitting a weak bid would harm relationship with DfT
  5. Don’t have all the funding to deliver all of the South Yorkshire Cycle Action Plan from 2011
  6. There will be a review of coordination between authorities in the City Region

Leigh Bramall

  1. Disappointing to not put in a bid
  2. You’ve already asked these questions – (I think hinting that I was wasting their time)
  3. Local Authorities facing financial cuts and capacity is stretched. Difficult to come up with complex bids in such short timescales
  4. Need a higher permanent level of funding
  5. No previous short term funding so we’ve not planned to have bids like this ready

Ian Auckland

  1. Nothing new about short term funding
  2. Issue was about no schemes that fitted the bill ready, not the lack of time preventing a bid

Alan Jones

  1. Officers must have had some preemptive warning of this grant (other said that this is how it happened!)

Graham Kyte

  1. Doing well in Barnsley – good relationship with cycling organisations
  2. Thanks to Matt for coming along and taking advantage of the democratic process! More people should come along( I completely agree! Thanks for having me!)

Ben Still

  1. Difficult to preempt the nuances of funding before officially announced
  2. Need to look at problem of no bid submitted when looking at next round of budget cuts (perhaps hinting that we need people to develop these schemes)

So, I think I’ve come to the end of this story. I’ll keep monitoring for National Funding on my page here and will do my best to support and urge Sheffield in applying for these opportunities in the future.

I think that some of the responsibility must fall on local people/organisations to come up with good cycling schemes and to push the council to fund and implement them. Local campaigners need to step up to the mark and start being bolder and ask for more.


Some notes:

 List of applications:

  • Large cities – Wave 1 City Deal Cities
  • Birmingham –
  • Bristol –
  • Leeds –
  • Liverpool –
  • Manchester –
  • Newcastle –
  • Nottingham –
  • Sheffield – NONE

Statement from Sheffield City Council:

It was explained that the Sheffield City Region (SCR) had not made a bid for any funding as there were no schemes ready that met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Regions.  However, running in parallel with the City Regions grants there were also National Park grants with different criteria.  Exactly the same Sheffield and Barnsley elements (of the not progressed SCR bid) were included in the Peak Park grant submission.  

The press had reported words to the effect that Sheffield had ‘yet again failed to bid for funding’.  Clearly, the local press had got the situation wrong or were being economical with the truth.  All the Council had done was to ‘change horse’ when it became clear that the SCR would not bid.  A situation which the various authorities involved in the Peak Park bid had prepared for.

Further, many Sheffield Council cycle schemes, that had been ‘ready to go’ and would have met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Region grants, had already been funded through the successful Local Sustainable Transport bids (e.g. Beeley Woods, Hanover Way, Five Weirs Walk between Sheffield and Rotherham, FWW link to Exchange Place, etc) and the successful Halfway to Killamarsh Connect 2 bid and scheme.  These very recent schemes add up to many millions of pounds of successful bids, matched by LTP funding.   

For the future, Sheffield is in the process of preparing further cycle infrastructure schemes.  These should be far enough advanced in another two years to be able to bid for similar City Region grant funding and will amount to around £10 – 20m worth of cycling infrastructure.  Currently the council would be expected to find around 30 – 50% of this sum in match funding – not easy given the considerable recent cut-backs suffered by most councils (with more to come).

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