The Cambridgeshire Local Highways Improvements initiatives (LHI) is a programme that can be used to fund small (less than £11,000) fixes to highway infrastructure.
This can include road markings, signage, dropped kerbs and, in our case, removing chicanes or other problematic obstructions. In our previous article (see Newsletter 134) we described the seven obstacles to cycling in King’s Hedges and Arbury that we were hoping to fix through the LHI programme. In this article we will explain how the process works and how you can get involved in bringing together LHI proposals for every ward in Cambridge. If each year we identified obstructions to inclusive cycling throughout the city, and were able to have them fixed, this would gradually add up to a substantial improvement for everyone in Cambridge.
The way LHI works is that Cambridgeshire County Council contributes up to £10,000, and some other party contributes at least 10% of the cost. Often that party is a parish council. For the city, in general, the contributor will be the city council using money set aside for such improvements, for example the cycleways programme. The LHI programme is not a quick process: it takes about a year from submission of the application before anything happens, if the application is successful. Preparation of applications needs to start several months in advance to get support from the relevant people, such as councillors, officers, residents and other organisations.
The total LHI budget for 2018/19 was £113,246, which is very unlikely to be enough to fund all proposals. However, we are happy to report that our proposal from last year received good enough scores to obtain funding, showing that it is a plausible method. We prepared a document with our proposal showing photographs of the sites, a description of the problem at each one and suggesting a possible solution. Our estimated costs were based upon published guidance on the county website. In fact, the actual intervention taken and its cost will depend upon an evaluation by a county officer. In our case, it turned out to be somewhat higher than our rough estimate.
We made several mistakes during the course of the proposal. One was not involving enough councillors early on. Most LHI programme projects involve only a single site, but ours involves fixes to several sites near each other. However, not all of these are in the same county ward, but we had only involved one county councillor. We should have talked to both councillors sooner, or kept all the sites within the same ward. Another mistake was procrastinating during the summer. We should have set up site visits sooner but kept putting it off until the deadline was starting to loom. We also should have looked sooner for other organisations with which to collaborate and done more outreach with local residents. These would have strengthened our application further, although in retrospect it seems to have worked out this time.
The LHI programme is not the only opportunity during the year to get fixes to infrastructure. Cambridge City Council has its own internal process called the Environmental Improvement Programme that operates through area committees. More information can be obtained from your local city councillors.
The deadlines are posted on the county council’s website during the course of the year, so check them periodically. This is an approximate timeline:
- early summer: discussions with councillors and stakeholders
- August: schedule site visits with officers and councillors
- October: applications are due
- January: the Member Advisory Panel scoring meeting
- March: decisions on scored proposals are announced.
You will need: a list of locations with proposed improvements, photos of the problem(s), any relevant measurements, support from at least one local councillor (preferably at both county and city level) and support from another local organisation.
For the scoring meeting: bring some handouts for the councillors who are reviewing applications because they won’t have your detailed proposal in front of them, just a one-line summary from a spreadsheet. There is also a projector which can be used to show Google Streetview images.
We write this article knowing that it could mean increased competition for limited funds in coming rounds. However, we believe that it’s important for more people to have a chance to contribute ideas and proposals. We focused on barriers to inclusive cycling within our local neighbourhood that we knew best. We encourage Camcycle members in other neighbourhoods to try to put together LHI proposals this year. As Councillor Noel Kavanagh said at the scoring committee: ‘Let’s make these improvements across the city.’
Daniel Thomas and Matthew Danish
We will put links and more information on the website: www.camcycle.org.uk/inclusivecycling