Victory for Steve Count after seven-year £200,000 footpath fight in March

Cllr Steve Count PHOTO: John Elworthy

Cllr Steve Count PHOTO: John Elworthy - Credit: Archant

It took him seven years – during which time he exchanged 300 emails – but finally Councillor Steve Count has succeeded in getting a start date for a £200,000 new footpath and cycle way over Norwood Bridge, March.

Plans for the £200,000 Norwood Road footpath in March.

Plans for the £200,000 Norwood Road footpath in March. - Credit: Archant

And if Cllr Count looked happy when he announced the news to me this week he had good reason.

“Local people have known for decades the Norwood Road Bridge has presented an extremely dangerous situation to pedestrians,” he said.

“The absence of a footpath on a narrow, steep, blind corner which suffers from a high incidence of speeding is crazy.

“It is really dangerous and the only reason I think there has not been an accident is people are so terrified they hug the side.”

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Work will start in July after the county council finally secured the extra bit of land they need to undertake the improvements.

“It will transform the area,” said Cllr Count who said it was the culmination of a campaign he began in 2011.

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The county council leader said the road over the bridge would become one way with traffic lights each side making it safer for pedestrians.

“It will be single lane with traffic light and there are number of reasons for that,” he said. “When engineers looked at it they said because of line of sight you need to restrict it to single lane.

“There are safety reasons for this and one other thing too – they are going to be smart lights so if you are speeding on the approach to the bridge they will go to red.”

It involved getting wasteland running alongside the bridge transferred to the ownership of the county council, securing funding for both a feasibility study and then £200,000 of project funding, plus the development of an agreed design for the work

Cllr Count, in his role at the time of both a town councillor and Fenland District councillor, said he began work seven years ago to secure the ownership of the very small strip of wasteland which runs alongside the bridge, securing funds and getting an approved design drawn up to solve this situation.

Between 2011 – 2014 considerable work was undertaken to identify the exact owner of the land, believed at first to be Network Rail, although subsequently discovered to be a charity called ‘Railway Paths’

In 2013 funding was secured by Cllr Count for a feasibility study for the safety work

In 2014/15 the £200,000 project received funding for the dual use cycleway/footpath agreed by the county council.

In 2016 ownership of land transferred back to Network Rail from Railway Paths

Last year pressure continued from the county council to agree transfer of the land from Network Paths and agreement for the cycleway/footpath design.

As 2018 dawned and the deadlock on ownership transfer continued and with significant delays on an agreed design, pressure was put on Network Rail by council chief executive Gillian Beasley.

Last week came news the legal title of the land had finally been transferred to the council.

“I am grateful to the chief executive and Network Rail’s Route Managing Director, Meliha Duymaz for unblocking the final hurdles to this much needed benefit for local people – which now, finally, has an agreed start date,” said Cllr Count.

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