East Dunbartonshire Council ignores fund for safer streets during pandemic

East Dunbartonshire Council has failed to take advantage of a £30 million walking and cycling fund set up to support social distancing in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The council was the only local authority on the Scottish mainland not to request any financial aid from the “Spaces for People” fund.

Applications for the fund, set up by the Scottish Government to enable councils to put in place temporary measures for physical distancing, 
have now closed.

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Local Green MSP Ross Greer has accused the council of “running down the clock” and ignoring potential projects put forward by 
residents.

He said: “The last few months have been extremely tough, even tragic, for many of us.

“But it would be frankly disastrous if we returned now to an old normal which regularly saw dangerous levels of air pollution at Bearsden Cross for example, or children 
unable to safely cycle to school.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the council delayed making any decisions on this fund until it was too late.

“I know they weren’t short of suggestions, given the Greens compiled and submitted a list of potential projects sent to us by local residents.

“East Dunbartonshire Council need to raise their game and make active travel a real priority.

“More people than ever have been walking and cycling in recent months but in too many of our communities it is impossible to do this with enough space for social 
distancing.”

Mr Greer added: “In some cases it is downright dangerous due to high levels of traffic and little to no protection for pedestrians. “

“The Scottish Greens will push for more money from government for these projects. I can only hope that next time East Dunbartonshire Council won’t run down the clock until it’s too late.”

The news comes after Cycling Scotland published its latest findings from a traffic survey it conducts twice a year. It is carried out at around 100 locations each May and September.

It found a significant increase in the number of people using bikes to get around – up from 0.67 per cent in May 2019 to 3.44 per cent in May 2020. Monitoring data from June showed that the rise in cycling was continuing during lockdown.

The Herald asked East Dunbartonshire Council why it had not made an application to the Spaces for People fund.

Thomas Glen, Depute Chief Executive - Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets, said: “Potential options were investigated as regards Spaces for People funding.

“At its meeting on 18 June, the council considered proposals for a project in Kirkintilloch, including a potential application to the fund. However, this was not possible as the paper was continued until the next council meeting on 20 August.

“The council remains fully committed to encouraging safe and active travel in East Dunbartonshire, with a number of strategies, policies and projects in place.”

Twenty-nine local authorities in Scotland benefited from the fund, including neighbouring North Lanarkshire Council which received over £1 million.

Only East Dunbartonshire, Orkney and Shetland failed to apply.