WEST Sussex County Council’s decision to remove pop-up cycle lanes less than six months after they were installed has seen the authority barred from the next round of government funding.

The council was the only authority in the country to be told it could not apply for money in the next phase of the Active Travel Fund.

And considering it received £780,000 in the first phase and £2.3m in the second phase, that’s a lot of money to miss out on.

In June 2020, the council announced it would be installing a number of temporary cycle lanes, using money from the first phase of funding.

By November, the decision had been taken to remove them.

While that decision may have gone down well with drivers, who had complained about congestion along the routes, cycling groups were furious.

And Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, made it clear the government was not happy with the move.

In a letter to leader Paul Marshall, the minister said the cycle lanes had been removed ‘before they had been fully tested and/or optimised’.

He added: “This was not a good use of public money and means that your authority will not be invited to bid for any new capital funding this year.”

Responding to a written question from Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood, Mr Heaton-Harris confirmed that only one council had been told it would not be invited to bid, adding: “The department made it clear to authorities that their performance with earlier tranches of active travel funding would be taken into account in allocating future funds.”

During a meeting of the full council on Friday (July 16), questions were asked by a number of councillors – including new members Sarah Sharp (Green, Chichester South) and Caroline Baxter (Lab, Worthing East) – about the decision and its consequences.

Joy Dennis, cabinet member for highways & transport, said: “Obviously the news was very disappointing to us.

“We didn’t feel that we had not complied. We felt that we had, so therefore you can understand the deep disappointment.

“It doesn’t mean that it will preclude us from the future and it doesn’t preclude us from continuing with those monies we received in tranche one and tranche two.

“We’ve got some active schemes going on there.”

The minister was more impressed with the way in which the £2.3m received by West Sussex in the second phase of funding was being spent.

This work includes consultation on a permanent cycleway scheme for Shoreham, which runs until August 1.

In his letter to Mr Marshall, Mr Heaton-Harris said there had been some ‘encourgaing results’.

He added: “I hope that in delivering your tranche 2 schemes, you build on the lessons learned from tranche 1, which would put [the council] in a strong position to bid for funding in 2022/23 and future years.”

Another new member, John Milne (Lib Dem, Horsham Riverside) said it was ‘painful’ to miss out on government money ‘purely as a result of our own mistakes’.

He added: “In my own area of Horsham town, we contrived to build a cycling lane that went nowhere, failed to connect up with other key cycling routes and, astonishingly, only operated in one direction – so we can hardly expect anyone to trust us with more money after that.”

Mrs Dennis told her fellow councillors that the situation was being reviewed and to ‘watch this space’.

She added: “The fact that we have just gone out to public consultation on the Shoreham cycle scheme shows our commitment to the Shoreham cycle scheme – and any other mitigating traffic issues there are around the area.

“That in itself shows the commitment of this council to the Shoreham cycle scheme as it currently is.”