Fife Council has signalled that it is planning to press ahead with its plans for the Lade Braes in St Andrews in spite of the serious concerns expressed by residents.
As previously reported by StAQV, the Council has been awarded £300,000 for work to upgrade the Lade Braes, with £150,000 from Sustrans ‘Places for Everyone Programme’, £50,000 from St Andrews Common Good Fund and £100,000 allocated by Fife Council’s Community & Housing Services Committee to complete the funding.
The proposed improvements were to include:
- upgrading of the path surface;
- a reduction, where possible, of pinch points and barriers along the route;
- the replacement of broken seats, and improved signage;
- installation of new litter bins;
- installation of solar stud guidance lighting; and
- some minor tree work for public safety.
The scheme as currently planned goes well beyond this, with widening of the path, straightening bends, felling mature trees and removal of barriers (chicanes) designed to slow down cyclists.
Following an informal survey carried out on Survey Monkey in 2018, Fife Council reported that a majority (91%) of the 327 people who participated agreed the path should be improved. This survey was subsequently presented by the Council as a consultation although it had not been carried out via the its Consultation website as is normal and did not, as planned, specifically invite residents of the South side of Hepburn Gardens nor engage with people living in the residential section of the Lade Braes between Cockshaugh Park and Bridge St whose properties abut the path and in most cases open directly onto it.
A commitment by the Council in September 2019 to properly consult residents adjacent to the path has not been honoured and there seems to be no intention to do so since a timetable for the work has been issued (see below).
At the public event held in the St Andrews Library on 15th August 2018, preceding the survey/consultation, Fife Council officials stated that the improvements to the path were not designed to facilitate cycling. However, it has since been revealed that linking the Lade Braes with the National Cycling network is an integral part of the scheme being proposed in the expectation that it will attract long distance cyclists. In fact, it is a condition of the Sustrans funding that the increase in long distance cycling will be monitored to demonstrate the success of the scheme.
If successful in its aim to link to the National Cycling Network, the scheme would represent a dramatic change in the use and safety of the path since long distance cyclists tend to ride in groups and at speed.
A safety review carried out by the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations (CSARA) has identified that in the residential section of the Lade Braes alone there are 7 separate examples of failure to comply with Scottish Government standards for shared use paths and it has been confirmed by an independent traffic audit that it is not suitable for cycling and that additional cycle traffic would increase the safety risks. Any increase in cycling on the parkland path would inevitably impact on the residential section. There are additional areas of the parkland section the West of Cockshaugh Park which, even after the “upgrade”, would not meet the required government standards, including a blind bend and narrowness of the path in many places.
Nevertheless, rather than address the safety issues and consider the Lade Braes in the context of a comprehensive cycling plan for St Andrews, as suggested by CSARA, Fife Council proposes to press ahead with its plans. Local Councillors were informed of the programme by Alan Bissett, Parks Development Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org), with a public announcement planned for the end of July:
- Completion of tender documents – early July 2020
- Review of tender documents by Sustrans – end of July 2020
- Tenders issued – early August 2020
- Tender return and review – start of August 2020
- Tender award and contract lead in period – mid September 2020
- On site works – mid October approx. 8 weeks
- Completion – mid December 2020
Both CSARA and the Hepburn Gardens Residents’ Association have taken the matter up with Sustrans Scotland, the major funder of the scheme, and discussions are ongoing with Sustrans regarding the probity of proceeding with plans and procedures that do not meet its funding criteria.
A spokesperson for CSARA said it “supports the upgrading of the Lade Braes path, but not at the risk to safety or the loss of amenity that facilitating long-distance cycling, as opposed to the current modest level of leisure cycling, would entail.“
Sustrans has agreed to participate in a comprehensive study of cycling in St Andrews and CSARA considers that it would make sense that this should take place now, before expending public funds on a plan which has so many flaws and which, by encouraging more cycling, including long-distance cycling, would inevitably deter many walkers, who are by far the more numerous users of Lade Braes.
- Click here to see what CSARA considers was wrong with Fife Council’s survey / ‘consultation’
Picture: Lade Braes at Cockshaugh Park looking East, circa 1920