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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 23:07 GMT
Routes scheme tops lottery vote
Plans for a Sustrans cycle path
The project aims to link up communities across Britain
A scheme to build a national network of cycle and walking routes has won a 50m lottery grant by topping a public vote.

Sustrans: Connect2, which aims to improve travel in 79 communities, beat three other environmental groups with 42% of all ballots cast.

The People's 50 Million Lottery is the largest ever publicly decided award.

Sustrans CEO and founder John Grimshaw said: "The hard work starts now to build those bridges, tunnels, crossings and networks of paths."

Towns 'changed'

Sustrans - a sustainable transport charity - plans to spend 140m over the next five years on its Connect2 scheme.


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Mr Grimshaw added: "There are 79 towns and settlements which are just going to be changed, I think, out of all recognition."

Mr Grimshaw said six million people lived within a mile of the scheme's new routes.

But three other green projects will receive nothing - Eden Project: The Edge; Sherwood: The Living Legend; and Black Country Urban Park.

ITV featured each of the four proposed initiatives, and members of the public were able to vote by phone and online before the poll ended on Monday.

The BBC's Torin Douglas said there was criticism from some quarters of the use of an internet and phone-in vote to choose the winner.

It is going to affect their lives right across the UK
Sir Clive Booth
Big Lottery Fund

One critic called it a "cynical copout and pseudo populism", he said.

But Sir Clive Booth, chairman of the Big Lottery Fund which allocates lottery grants, told the BBC: "I just don't get that.

"Is it better to have 10 people making a decision in a closed room, or 286,000 people making a decision through a public vote on projects that have already been quality assured?"

There was also some controversy over the voting method following the recent television phone-in scandals.

But the Big Lottery Fund said it took extra precautions to ensure everything was above board.

'Big achievement'

Sir Clive said the Sustrans project had topped the poll convincingly.

Now we have to dust ourselves down and get on with finding the resources elsewhere
Tim Smit
Eden Project

"It really won hands-down. What did it was that public support was terrific," he said.

"Given there were four projects, getting half the vote was a big achievement. I think it has captured people's imaginations because it is going to affect their lives right across the UK."

Tim Smit, chief executive of the Eden Project, said he was "bitterly disappointed" at missing out on the prize.

"You don't work for two years on something you don't care about, do you?" Mr Smit said.

"Now we have to dust ourselves down and get on with finding the resources elsewhere."

Eden said it would have spent the money on a new area called The Edge to show visitors how people and plants can cope with environmental change.

Some of our your comments...

It was the only proposal that was national and it offered tangible improvements to quality of life. It deserved to win.
Taskmaster, Devon

Excellent news, especially after the government decided last week to cancel funding to cycling, walking and other recreational activities because they do not constitute "sport", instead giving money to organisations like the FA. Hopefully, this money will go a long way to making cycling - and walking - a more viable transport solution for many people.
Lee, Wolverhampton

Sustrans is working to make cycling more attractive to more people and ultimately reduce the number of car journeys. This alone will improve the lives of EVERYONE and make some contribution to reducing our impact on the environment and make lives better for our descendants. The other 3 projects would have all generated INCREASED motor traffic and I would like to think that it was this realisation that influenced the wider public to reject them.
Brian Jameson, Solihull, West Midlands

This is an idiotic scheme! Only a handful of eccentrics is likely to use a national network of cycleways, many of which run on disused railway lines which would far better be restored. this is green logic gone mad!
Charles Tomkinson, Macclesfield Cheshire

I'm part of the Connect2 bid, which in our case involves building a cycling/walking track along the beach between Hastings and Bexhill - so for us the win is fantastic news. With all due respect to the other projects, it was the right choice in terms of the environment in that Connect2 will make the biggest difference in terms of helping people to make more journeys by foot or by bike. I think it's very appropriate that it was announced in the week that world leaders are meeting in Bali to tackle climate change. This is a very practical way of tackling climate change here and now. Bravo Sustrans!
Nick Hanna, Hastings UK


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