Queensbury Tunnel campaigners write to Grant Shapps after 'derisory' funding offer

Queensbury Tunnel campaigners write to Grant Shapps after 'derisory' funding offer

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CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the historic Queensbury Tunnel from closure have written to the Transport Secretary over “deep dismay and bewilderment” at a funding offer from the Government. 

For seven years, the Queensbury Tunnel Society (QTS) has been making the case for a route linking Bradford with Halifax and the Calder Valley. It believes the greenway would offer a realistic long-term alternative for commuters, would help communities beset by health problems and would stimulate the local economy through tourism.

And campaigners say an assessment of the greenway’s likely value shows it would return £5.60 in social and economic benefits for every £1 invested.

Bradford Council expects the full, eight-mile scheme to cost around £27 million, but there was outcry last week when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to Bradford Council on June 16 with a “derisory” offer of £4 million, saying it was the Government’s “best and final offer” and giving the authority just four days to respond.

It came just months after Mr Shapps told the T&A: “The plan and official advice was to fill it in but I have specifically prevented that from happening to work with local leaders and the Combined Authority to come up with a better solution.”

Now, QTS has written an open letter to Mr Shapps in which it says the funding offer “caused deep dismay and bewilderment” to thousands of supporters who had been “expecting something a good deal more positive” based on his previous comments.

In it, Dr Norah McWilliam says: “Since March you have announced a £2 billion investment in walking and cycling to build on the huge upturn in active travel seen during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Yet it seems that you have failed to recognise that the £7 million project to abandon Queensbury Tunnel, which is still been progressed by Highways England, would prevent any direct future link between the emerging cycle network in Calderdale and those around Leeds/Bradford.

“Giving Bradford Council four days to decide whether it can accept an offer for the tunnel which would not even pay for its repair does not sit comfortably with your previous statements.”

The letter says the £4 million offer put Bradford Council in an “invidious position” where the ‘take it or leave it’ deadline made it impossible to seek funds from elsewhere. Campaigners are urging the Government to allocate money from the £2 billion active travel fund.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “Thousands of local people have campaigned passionately to save this important historic tunnel.

“The government’s offer of £4 million is nowhere near the £27 million needed to transform the tunnel and create a cycleway connecting Bradford and Halifax.

“The Council is doing everything we can to support this important piece of heritage but we cannot allow hard-pressed Bradford Council taxpayers to be left to pay for a capital project of this magnitude without significant government financial support.

“We call on the government to rethink their proposals and come back with the money needed.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport added: “We are in discussions with Bradford Council on the future of the Queensbury Tunnel, but no agreement has been reached.”