A CYCLING campaigner is overjoyed after it was revealed Essex County Council will receive £1.9 million in the first wave of funding to invest in cycling and walking improvements.

The Emergency Active Travel Funding initiative has been designed by the Government to provide pop-up and temporary interventions to create an environment safe for walking and cycling.

The council believes it amounts to 20 per cent of the final funding which will be supplied.

Paul Avison, who is chairman of the Colchester Cycling Campaign, feels the grant will give the community a major boost.

“It’s absolutely wonderful Essex County Council has received a large amount of funding,” said Mr Avison, 72.

“The funding could be used for an awful lot of things which I think are essential, particularly at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Issues regarding social distancing and not using public transport make it vital as a lot of people will be walking and cycling more often.

“We have already put suggestions forward to Essex Highways where we feel changes could be made on a temporary basis and then maybe a more permanent basis.”

The Emergency Active Travel Funding initiative will provide £225 million to local transport authorities and London boroughs with a further £25 million helping to support cycle repair schemes.

The funding allocated to local authorities will be released in two phases, with the first tranche of £45 million being released as soon as possible.

Mr Avison confirmed it is important the funding is used wisely to improve cyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety.

“It’s early days but it’s key that the need for cycling and walking improvements is getting positive support,” added Mr Avison.

“The Government is showing support and so is the local council.

“What we are putting together is a list of priorities and it’s important the funding is used wisely.

“For example, it’s important to look at places where footways are very narrow because that is a real problem for pedestrians.

“There are also places that cyclists often go but more could end up going there if improvements are made.”

Elsewhere in Essex, Southend Council is due to get its hands on £1.5 million in funding, with Thurrock Council claiming £1.4 million.

Kevin Bentley, the council’s infrastructure boss, said: “This is a real opportunity for people to change the areas where they live by improving the air quality and getting healthier.

“With the lockdown so many people have commented how much quieter areas are and how much fresher the air smells.

“While I absolutely recognise that many people will have to use their cars in the future, this is opportunity for people to think hard before they drive and ask themselves the question, can I walk or cycle? Our job is to make that as easy as we can given the size of the county.

“I am delighted with this announcement of £1.9m and I am expecting the Government to offer more given the importance of this issue and this opportunity to change the way we travel.”

“We have a responsibility to provide adequate physical distance in town and city centres to maintain social distancing and help prevent the spread of coronavirus."