County council fails on cycle provision?

Nick Hanna (third from right), chair of Sussex Greenways, leads a group of walkers, cyclists and horse riders on the sponsored Peasmarsh - Rye ride

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) was granted £2.5 million to improve cycling and walking during the pandemic – but only spent £90,000 on cycling.

A freedom of information (FoI) request from Eco Action Eastbourne has revealed that ESCC received £2.35 million through the government’s Covid Emergency Active Travel Fund and spent just £90,000 on cycle improvements. The FoI request also revealed that 50% of the ESCC monies remain unspent.

In July 2020 the council was awarded £535,171 in tranche 1 of funding for temporary social distancing schemes. It spent £267,349, most of it on footway widening, traffic cones, and barriers. A further £9,987 was spent on temporary cycle parking. Nearly all the temporary schemes were dropped.

In November 2020 the council was allocated a further £1.82 million, of which so far £657,835 has been spent on ‘predominantly permanent measures’, most of which are ‘walking improvement schemes’. The one exception is a £90,000 contribution (30% of its cost) to the completion of a cycle route between Falmer and Woodingdean.

“ESCC has wasted a significant opportunity to increase cycling and walking numbers during the pandemic,” said Paul Humphreys, chair of Cycle East Sussex (an umbrella group of the county’s cycle groups).

“Cycle provision in East Sussex remains generally poor and the county still has the second-lowest cycling numbers in the south east (after Medway). Trends over the last ten years have shown no improvement, mostly due to the very slow rate of delivering active travel infrastructure by our county council.”

ESCC says that the underspend on both schemes is being used to develop further permanent measures, details of which are yet to be revealed.

The government’s new agency Active Travel England, led by Chris Boardman, is due to publish reports on highway authorities and their performance on delivering active travel. “East Sussex is likely on current performance to come out near the bottom of these league tables nationally,” said Paul Humphreys.

Even the routes that ESCC is putting forward (outside of Covid funding) are of poor quality. Four new cycle routes were announced recently for Eastbourne but local cycling group Bespoke has identified considerable shortcomings in their design. The council has been forced to admit that the new routes do not in fact meet national government guidelines as set out in LTN 1/20, the Department for Transport’s own design standards.

Residents of Rye and eastern Rother can rest easy that ESCC will be inflicting any sub-standard routes on us since they have no plans for this area. Given Rye’s status as a tourist destination and the fact that it is surrounded by beautiful countryside (much of it flat marshland, ideally suited to cycling), you’d think that there’d be some urgency to make improvements to the network with the aim of boosting ecotourism, improving the health and wellbeing of local communities, and working towards a net-zero carbon future.

Unfortunately, not. Meanwhile, ESCC has allocated £31 million for roads in their 2022/2023 budget but the implementation of walking and cycling routes “will rely on our ability to secure external funding”.

Image Credits: Sussex Greenways .


  1. Another example of the ‘ripple effect’ whereby the further you are from the source of funding the less you get.
    Eastern Rother gets little from either ESCC or Rother District Council.

  2. One of the things that irritates me a lot is the insistence on pounded earth trackways for bikes which become mud after rain. One often hears objections that tarmacing these would urbanize the countryside, often from dog walkers who have driven to a nearby car park on an tarmac road. I cycled from Dieppe along a beautiful tarmaced route toward Paris for nearly 30km: still felt rural.
    The route from Lydd to Rye is tarmac in Kent with the county border marked by a change to overgrown pounded earth when you reach Sussex. Given how busy some routes are (Camber/Rye and cuckoo trail) why not just do it right.

  3. Hi Robert, half of the Rye-Camber route is being upgraded soon and I beleive the section from Camber to the border is also on the list. I agree with you – we do need proper, sealed surfaces that work in all weathers.

  4. I cycled along the path from Rye to Dumb Woman’s Lane today and despite the bridge repairs by Sustrans which are welcomed, it’s a quagmire and unsafe but it’s been like it for years. I’ve given up contacting our ESCC representative ( apparently I’m not allowed to name him by Rye News) as he ignores me.

  5. I share your frustration Steve, but to be honest that stretch is owned by Sustrans not ESCC so it is their responsibility.


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