ESSEX County Council ignored experts’ advice and wasted taxpayers’ money, say cycle campaigners.

The Colchester Cycling Campaign claims official papers reveal transport professionals’ safety advice was ignored when the council moved a key cycle and pedestrian crossing in Cymbeline Way.

The cost of the work from 2015 to 2016 nearly doubled to £500,000, as the project developed.

The crossing, then used by 660 people daily, was moved just 200 metres along the road.

The cycling activists submitted a request under the Freedom of Information law.

They had been trying to discover if the council was planning a study to see if the change had put off cyclists and pedestrians from using the route and whether it had relieved jams.

The papers include notes by Ringway Jacobs, the council’s highways experts.

These reveal:

  •  the council thought moving the crossing would help the reliability of park-and-ride buses — but Ringway Jacobs said it wouldn’t
  •  cyclists and pedestrians would be put in greater danger
  •  any benefit for drivers would be negligible
  •  the scheme worked against cycling strategies and disrupted a key commuter link
  •  the new location would make the road network feel unsafe, and
  •  extending the 40mph limit was against the Essex speed management strategy.

Will Bramhill, of Colchester Cycling Campaign said: “This may be historical but it is a sorry saga which shows the attitude of the council at the time.

“As the complaints flooded in, it was increasingly clear that this change was nonsensical. We said it, 100 other objectors said it, yet this work still went ahead.

“We would like to see the council admit its mistake - when the A133 is dualled it should reinstate the crossing in its original position.

“This points to how Essex needs to adopt a process for greater engagement and more community involvement when developing schemes.”

Mr Bramhill added with regard to the value of the Cymbeline Way scheme: “£500,000 is a drop in the ocean In terms of council spending, but it is still equivalent to 330 homes’ council tax for the year. "When so many people are struggling to make ends meet, Essex should be spending its money more wisely.”

When news of the scheme broke in early 2015, almost 100 complaints flooded in, including from Colchester Institute, St Helena School and disability group Fair Access to Colchester.

These were logged but apparently ignored when the decision was made.

Ringway Jacobs recommended the council put the scheme on hold “as opposed to implementing a scheme that has no justification and is potentially unsafe and contrary to policy”.

It added: “The design team do not see the benefit of the current proposals. We see significant risks to public safety and public health, particularly with regard to children.”

Essex’s own safety experts also came out against the scheme. The specialists’ report flagged up increased danger. The expert auditors made nine recommendations, all of which said the crossing should not be moved.

Another study, made under the Equality Act, pointed out that moving the crossing would have an adverse effect “especially for the elderly and disabled”.

Essex’s senior officer in charge of the works supported his colleagues’ findings.

Despite this evidence, the council went ahead. The highways chief at the time was Rodney Bass. He is no longer a councillor but still acts as an adviser to the council leader on constitutional issues.

An Essex County Council said the crossing on Cymbeline Way was "proposed to be relocated on an experimental basis to improve traffic circulation around Colne Bank roundabout and ease traffic congestion in this part of town, ahead of future plans to enlarge the roundabout itself."