More commuters can now leave their cars behind after the opening of a £5.8m cycling and footpath network in South Oxfordshire, linking three large employment centres with nearby towns.
Oxfordshire County Council has announced that it has completed work on five cycling routes which make up the first phase of the Science Vale Cycling Network project – more than 10km of improved cycle and pedestrian paths that are now open to the public.
The routes link the science and research centres at Harwell Campus, Milton Park and Culham Science Centre with Abingdon, Wantage and Didcot, including Didcot Parkway railway station. To see the network in full, visit the map of the routes.
OxLEP secured £5.1m of funding for the project via the government’s Local Growth Fund, with the investment helping to increase healthier transport options in the area whilst reducing pressure on road networks.
OxLEP is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England playing a key role in driving forward economic growth and – by 2021 – it’s expected that central Government will have invested over £12bn into the UK economy via the Local Growth Fund.
The Local Growth Fund investment aims to allow LEPs to use their local knowledge to promote growth in their individual regions.
Analysis has shown that for every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested, £4.81 in benefits could be generated.
Since its inception in 2011, OxLEP – with its partners – has secured over £660m-worth of government funding for Oxfordshire, which has seen more than 48,000 new jobs created in the county to-date. In total, OxLEP currently oversees a £2.2bn growth programme for the county.
Nigel Tipple, OxLEP Chief Executive, said: “The completion of such a significant project – that will have a positive impact on improve quality of life for people and communities – is excellent news.
“As the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire, we will continue to play a vitally important role for the county moving forward, securing investment that enables new opportunities that benefit the county’s businesses for many years to come and – in this instance – ensuring our county benefits from an infrastructure that is fit-for-purpose, supporting dynamic economic growth.”
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic and the nature of the off-road routes, the work was completed three months before the funding deadline, and route one earned a Green Apple Environment Award for minimising carbon emissions and reducing environmental impact during construction.
Some of these environmentally-friendly practices included:
- Powering the on-site offices by using solar energy
- Using sustainable materials, such as locally sourced European oak
- Reusing excavated soil to minimise waste to landfill
- Navigating within existing trees, reducing the tree clearance and preventing negative impact on biodiversity
- Pioneering photo-luminescent technology – i-glo discs – as path markers. They glow brightly throughout the night and use natural light to recharge during the day
- Using a new sustainable paving, Flexipave, 50 per cent of which is made from recycled tyres. This porous material allows large volumes of water and air to penetrate the surface and promotes water recharge directly into natural aquifers, which hold groundwater. More than 16,000 tyres were used to deliver 7,115 metres of Flexipave, contributing to a carbon reduction of 382,217kg CO2 from surfacing alone.
Luke Hall MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, added: “As Science Vale goes from strength to strength, it is vital that the area is well connected to its community.
“£5.1m of Local Growth Fund investment has helped to deliver their new cycle network, increasing transport options, relieving pressure on roads and offering a greener alternative. This project will help Science Vale secure its place as a first-choice location for businesses, supporting job creation and further investment in the region.”
Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “The completion of these five cycling routes is great news for this part of the county, and complements the work being carried out in Oxford, Witney and Bicester as part of our active travel programme.
"Having the infrastructure in place is a huge factor when it comes to persuading people to swap the car for the bike, and the Science Vale Cycle Network is just the sort of project that will make it easier to take the healthier option.”
Philip Campbell, Commercial Director of MEPC, which manages Milton Park – home to 250 businesses and 9,000 employees – said: “To officially open this key section of new infrastructure at a time when people are telling us that they would like to travel to and from work using sustainable travel modes is a positive milestone.
"Thank you to the project teams at the county council, their contractors, and our team for delivering the project. We hope that people enjoy using the new path and it helps to make their commute that little bit easier.”
Pictured above: Backhill Tunnel at Milton Park - another OxLEP-supported project backed by Government funding