Active = Health
The Combined Authority had its last meeting of the year today in Bolton. The main feature was the Walking and Cycling Strategy report given by Chris Boardman.
Chris started of with the very powerful argument around walking and cycling ie exercise, being fundamental to good health. But to get more people cycling requires people other than Lycra clad commuters to feel safe on our roads. Chris argues that if the average 12 year old feels safe cycling we would have built an infrastructure that would multiply the number of people cycling regularly many times over.
It’s not just about infrastructure though. A ridiculous number of daily car journeys are less than 1km in length, a 10/15 minute walk. We need to support behaviour change, persuade people of the benefits of walking, change the culture and that’s a long term job. The strategy also has a pretty hefty price tag - £1.5b, which of course we haven’t got, but that’s never stopped us in the past. It’s proposed to start with a challenge fund of £50m a year from 2019/20 and use that to lever in other funding. It is a very ambitious plan but that’s just what Greater Manchester needs.
Earlier in the week the Council Executive met. One of the items on the agenda related to the Etihad Campus and the Lower Medlock Valley. The 2008 crash and subsequent recession, compounded by the Coalition Government scrapping New East Manchester, our urban regeneration vehicle, and with it programmes like Working Neighbourhoods Fund and the Housing Market Renewal Fund, has certainly slowed the regeneration of East Manchester, but certainly hasn’t stopped it. A new leisure centre, new housing, Space Studios are just three examples of a lot of beneficial development.
Hopefully the pace of neighbourhood improvement is accelerating, and this report talking about social housing provider One Manchester driving more housing in the Lower Medlock valley, and Manchester Metropolitan University building a new academic Sports Campus alongside the Etihad. I’m sure this will be followed by more good news in the not too distant future.