Falkirk Council gets £190k – but FoE says it is not enough

Falkirk Council has been given £190,000 to make temporary improvements to public spaces to make them safer during the pademic.

However, Friends of the Earth campaigners have criticised Falkirk Council for not getting a bigger share of the £30 million fund.

The cash comes from the Scottish Government’s ‘Spaces for People’ pot for councils and other public bodies to fund things such as wider pavements, temporary cycle lanes and even road closures to allow safe social distancing.

The council says the cash will help it support and deliver projects promoting sustainable active travel, health and well-being and daily exercise.

These include re-allocating road space by promoting temporary road restrictions and improving links to the canal towpath in Falkirk.

The money will also help to create dedicated on-road cycle routes and provide an additional 90 cycle parking spaces at various locations to encourage people using bikes to get to work or go shopping.

However, Friends of the Earth campaigners say Falkirk is lagging behind other councils who all applied for – and received – much more money.

Angus Maclean, a member of Friends of the Earth Falkirk, said: “As a cyclist, and often with my three-year-old daughter, active travelling in Falkirk is very far from being safe.

“Segregated cycle lanes, widened pavements and many other improvements are needed to create a positive cycling and walking environment.

“To seriously tackle air pollution and to slow down cars, we call on Falkirk Council to invest a lot more into active travelling programmes.

“While it is great to see Falkirk Council utilising the ‘Spaces for People’ funding and being part of the Forth Cycle scheme, it is disappointing that Falkirk was only asking for a total of £190,000.”

The campaigners pointed out that Dundee City Council secured enough for a spend of £16-per-person, while Falkirk Council applied for the equivalent of just £1.18 per person.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: “Many of our public spaces are not sufficient to cope with a pandemic. Our pavements are too narrow to allow safe distancing, or allow cafes to offer outdoor dining.

“Crowding around the entrances to parks or businesses has been a big concern, and parents waiting at school gates in the months to come will also need additional space for distancing.

“Temporary measures such as widened pavements and pop-up cycle lanes are essential, allowing people to get around safely.

“It’s been great to see many councils show innovation and ambition in making sure their places respond to the restrictions we face. But the response of Falkirk Council is not good enough; more needs to be done to ensure people in Falkirk can get around safely and sustainably.

“The money is there, and people in Falkirk need the extra public space and protection. Hopefully, the Council can develop bigger, more ambitious plans for improving the area.”

A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: “The recent Spaces for People funding is only one small part of the council’s investment in active travel – Falkirk Council has seen major investment in Active Travel infrastructure in recent times.

“In the last five years alone Falkirk Council has invested in active travel projects totalling £8 million.

“In addition to capital investment, Falkirk Council has been very successful in securing investment to deliver behaviour change initiatives.

“In the last five years Falkirk Council has secured £1.7 million through the Paths for All  Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme, utilising the Council ‘s own revenue budgets and partner support.”