‘Get on with it and be bold’: Why dragging our feet on active travel is costing South Yorkshire money
Plus, rock legends return to The Leadmill
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Why does everyone seem to be arguing so much about active travel? In among the fire and fury of the debate, it’s often overlooked that there is a great deal of consensus between the parties on the importance of moving away from car use and towards walking and cycling. The targets for increasing active travel are set by the current Conservative government while many of the schemes themselves are being delivered by opposition-led town halls. However, in South Yorkshire, active travel schemes have been beset by continual delays. Today we look at why this might be and what we can do to sort it out.
As well as that we have a beautifully-converted family home in Meersbrook, details of a science festival coming to four venues in Sheffield over three days this week, and a great piece about the new The Full Monty TV series.
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, I discovered the joy and pain of being a Sheffield Wednesday fan after attending the most amazing game of football I’ve ever seen on Thursday night. You can still read that piece here (Blades fans can be assured we’ll do a story on you soon to even it up).
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,424 paying members. In the first, the man behind Street Art Sheffield took me on a tour of the city’s thriving scene. And in the second, the new leader of Sheffield City Council Tom Hunt told me how he hopes to restore people’s confidence in Labour and rebuild trust. An extract from that first piece is below.
At the Dog and Partridge is a mural of a drunken man surrounded by empty wine bottles and with a traffic cone on his head. It looks like a Banksy, but it’s actually by Sheffield-based artist Marquis De Rabbit. Banksy has tried to become a “proper artist” by exhibiting work in galleries. But Andy thinks street art loses something if it is taken away from its natural home. “Gallery art is designed to be behind closed doors,” he tells me. “This is art for the people.”
This week we’ll send out two more including one by Daniel Timms about the strange beauty of trig points, and another by me about the battle to save The Leadmill. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subs rather than clickbait, please subscribe using the button below. It costs £1.34 a week if you pay for 12 months up front (23p a day).
Editor’s note: Sometimes I’m asked why we don’t make all our stories available for free. And to be honest there is nothing I’d like more than to be able to make all our reporting available to everyone. But good journalism, like lots of other important things, costs money. If you are able to, please consider becoming a paid member of The Tribune today. As well as getting two extra editions you’ll also be helping support the survival of high quality journalism in Sheffield. Thank you.
The big picture: Balancing act 🎪
Thanks to Instagram photographer Emma Bothamley for this great photo of a performer at yesterday’s Weston Park May Fayre. The annual event is organised by the University of Sheffield’s Fair and Circus Archive and saw thousands of people enjoy both the sunny weather and dozens of weird and wonderful acts.
This week’s weather ⛅
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say high pressure sits close by to the west to bring us a mainly dry and fine week with spells of warm sunshine.
Monday ⛅ After a cool start, the day is set fair with spells of sunshine and only a low shower risk later on. Highs of 21°C.
Tuesday ⛅ Another chilly beginning, with the day settled once again with sunny spells and light winds. Highs of 20°C.
Wednesday ⛅ Little change with another fine and dry day expected with spells of warm sunshine for many. Highs of 20°C.
Thursday ⛅ Fine, settled and dry with good spells of sunshine and variable cloud. Still cool overnight though, with highs of 20°C.
Friday ⛅ Yes, you guessed it, another fine day with variable cloud amounts and pleasant spells of sunshine. Highs around 19°C.
Outlook: The settled weather looks like extending through next weekend, though cooler air may topple down from the north in time for the Bank Holiday Monday.
The big story: ‘Get on with it and be bold’ — Why dragging our feet on active travel is costing South Yorkshire money
Top line: On Friday, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard revealed that the combined authority has been given £2.4m by the government to develop active travel plans. This compares with £23m for Greater Manchester, £12m for the West Midlands, £14m for the Liverpool City Region and £17m for West Yorkshire. Why is South Yorkshire losing out?
Background: Active Travel England was set up in July 2020 tasked with delivering the government’s objective of ensuring 50% of trips in England’s towns and cities are walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030.
Since then, Active Travel England has been releasing fresh tranches of money to local authorities every six months out of a total budget of £2bn.
In the last tranche, £200m was released by the government. South Yorkshire asked for £15m of support and yet received just a sixth of that money.
Get on with it: The government’s funding criteria rewards authorities that are bolder in developing active travel schemes, with more money going to those that can ensure public money will deliver the most benefits. The South Yorkshire Combined Authority currently has an average rating of 2 (on a scale of 0-4), the same as the Liverpool City Region but lower than Greater Manchester, West Midlands and West Yorkshire, which all have a higher rating of 3.
Stalled schemes: Active neighbourhood trial schemes which were set up in Nether Edge and Crookes last year have been beset by problems and repeatedly redesigned. Other schemes in Sheffield like the ones between Nether Edge and the city centre, Darnall and Attercliffe, and around Kelham Island and West Bar have been delayed by months.
Why so slow? The delays here are partly down to capacity and partly down to South Yorkshire being slow to act in the early stages. It took the combined authority months to recruit a new active travel commissioner in Ed Clancy after Dame Sarah Storey left, which delayed getting the funded schemes going.
Active Travel England has also seen a big cut in their budget, so this time more has gone to L3 authorities as there’s more confidence the money will be quickly spent.
Oliver Coppard is seen as one of the best mayors in the UK for active travel, but piecemeal funding means South Yorkshire doesn’t have the capacity it needs to deliver schemes.
Involving the public: However, another aspect causing delays are long-winded consultations. New Sheffield City Council leader Tom Hunt, whose ward of Walkley has also had a trial active neighbourhood scheme, told me last week that if they are to to work better, the public must be more involved in the design of the schemes from the beginning.
But consultation without having the sometimes counterintuitive facts at hand is always going to delay schemes. For example, active travel is not bad for business at all and retailers always overestimate the level of car borne customers.
Also, filters to curtail motor vehicles do not automatically divert all the traffic that was once there onto the next nearby road. The science around this is well-established, but too few politicians are prepared to put their heads above the parapet.
Our take: There’s no getting away from the fact that active travel schemes can often be contentious, but if we are to move beyond these constant delays and access the money what we really need is political leadership. We know the huge benefits active travel can bring in terms of health and the environment. But there is also no longer enough space on our roads to accommodate the level of car journeys people seem to want to make. Leaders in other parts of the world seem to get the importance of change, but as often South Yorkshire is lagging behind.
Home of the week 🏡
This stunning three double-bedroomed Meersbrook period semi is spread over four floors and has a rear terrace overlooking a large private garden. It is on the market for £415,000.
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Our media picks 🎧
The new Tory ‘darling’ and rising star of the right 🗳️ A good piece in The Guardian profiles outspoken Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates. Described by ally Danny Kruger as the “the darling of the party”, Sheffield’s only Conservative MP opened the right wing National Conservatism Conference in London last week. However, others in the party see her socially conservative views as attempts to drag the party “back into the dark ages”.
Joe Elliott on Sheffield United and that huge Bramall Lane gig ⚽ A lovely interview in The Star brings together two Sheffield legends: Def Leppard frontman and Blades fan Joe Elliott and his 1970s footballing hero Tony Currie. Ahead of the rock band’s huge gig at Bramall Lane tonight, football editor Chris Holt speaks to them about United teams past and present. As well as the story, the piece also includes a nice video of the pair sharing memories.
‘Taking their clothes off was a metaphor’ 📺 Ahead of next month’s return of The Full Monty, The Guardian bring together writing duo Simon Beaufoy and Alice Nutter to talk about the original movie and its new TV series spinoff. Beaufoy says he penned the original film after seeing Sheffield demolished in the 90s. Nutter says she had misgivings about bringing the same characters back but believes the ethos of the original film is “utterly salient to now”.
Things to do 📆
Learn 🧠 Discover the latest science research from University of Sheffield academics as the annual Pint of Science festival returns from Monday 22 to Wednesday, 24 May. Taking place over four venues around Sheffield, this year’s festival will cover topics as diverse as truth in politics, solar storms, alien life, a virtual reality tour of CERN, tracking bumblebees and the use of AI in neuroscience. For the full festival programme and to book tickets, click here.
Talk 🗣️ The Festival of Debate continues this week with a full programme of online and in person events. Sessions on Wednesday, 24 May include rethinking citizenship in a time of political chaos at the Quaker Meeting House (6-8pm) and the future of democracy at the Showroom (7-8.30pm). And on Thursday, 25 May, Kenan Malik talks about his new book Not So Black and White, a history of race from white supremacy to identity politics (7-9pm).
Theatre 🎭 Starting on Wednesday, 24 May at the Lyceum is The Spongebob Musical, a show for all the family. When the citizens of Bikini Bottom discover that a volcano is about to erupt and destroy their humble home, SpongeBob and his friends must come together to save the fate of their undersea world. The musical, which features music by David Bowie, Aerosmith, John Legend and many others, runs until 27 May. Tickets are priced £15-£45.
For one night only 🎸
Sheffield rock legends Def Leppard returned to their roots on Friday night to play in front of 850 enthralled fans at The Leadmill. The band, which were formed in Sheffield in 1976, were performing as part of the campaign to save the iconic venue which is under threat of eviction. Tonight they swap the more intimate surroundings of The Leadmill for the slightly bigger stage of Bramall Lane for a massive 44,000 capacity gig with fellow rock band Mötley Crüe.