The Conservative Lead member for highways at Derbyshire County Council made it clear during a meeting with Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins, and local councillors that they consider the decision to press ahead with the controversial plans for the East West Chesterfield Cycle Path is final and that they do not care what local residents have to say.
Following on from the recent public meeting held at Brookfield School by the Chesterfield Civic Society, which was attended by almost 300 people, Mr Perkins had requested an urgent meeting with Cllr Athwal to discuss the concerns raised about the plans and the lack of consultation with residents.
Toby Perkins said, “Cllr Athwal was very dismissive of the concerns I raised about the consultation. Cllr Athwal is clear that he thinks a three-week online consultation, that was held during the pandemic and as far as I can tell only publicised on their website and social media, was sufficient.
He claims that 4,000 letters were delivered to constituents, but apart from a handful of people who live on or just off Crow Lane, nobody seems to have received these. But Cllr Athwal made it clear that he didn’t care and that the council didn’t really need to send letters to residents anyway and that these were an “optional extra” to what was required for the consultation. He made it very clear that he isn’t interested in hearing any further views from residents and considers the issue closed.
A three-week online consultation for such a significant project that will have a huge impact on residents is clearly inadequate. There has been no genuine attempt to secure the views of the people of Chesterfield and I know they will share my anger and frustration at Cllr Athwal’s dismissive attitude. This isn’t a fair or democratic way for a local authority to conduct themselves.
I will be discussing this again soon with the Minister for Cycling. As I have said before, I’m very much in favour of new cycling infrasturucture but before any scheme is approved, people need a proper opportunity for their views and concerns to be heard.”
We did discuss the Holymoorside to Somersall cycling route and have agreed to work together to progress that route but it is clear that would be in addition to, not instead of, the Chatsworth Road changes.