Derry MLA welcomes decision to reverse cuts to Active School Travel Programme

SDLP Climate Change spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed a decision from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to reverse cuts to the Active School Travel Programme.
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The programme, delivered by Sustrans, is the only initiative in Northern Ireland which encourages children and parents to leave the vehicles at home in favour of active travel on the school run. It is jointly funded by DfI and the Public Health Agency, has been in operation since 2013 and has worked with over 460 schools.

The Foyle MLA said: “I’m delighted that the department has reversed their short-sighted decision to scrap funding for the Active School Travel (AST) Programme.

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“It’s important that we build on the success of this programme. Promoting and embracing the benefits of active travel at a young age will ensure these children will continue the practice into adulthood. This is exactly the direction of travel we need to be seeing in society, encouraging people out of their cars to walk or cycle. Not only is it good for the body and mind but it brings a multitude of environmental benefits; reducing congestion, pollution and is a key cog in the fight against climate change.

Derry MLA Mark H DurkanDerry MLA Mark H Durkan
Derry MLA Mark H Durkan

“I hope this scheme can be expanded in the future to inspire a necessary change in society’s travel habits.”

Following a campaign, DfI reconsidered its decision and confirmed that it will continue to fund the programme, albeit with a smaller contribution. The Public Health Agency has agreed to provide an increased amount to ensure the programme can continue across Northern Ireland.

The DfI decision is part of a slew of cuts due to budgetary pressures on Stormont this year. However, Sustrans and our supporters in Cycling UK Northern Ireland made the case that cutting the AST programme will contribute a mere 0.2% of the savings the Department needs to make.

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Caroline Bloomfield, Sustrans Northern Ireland Director said: “With stringent budget cuts across government and acutely so for Infrastructure, we did not expect to receive the full funding and proposed cost-saving measures for a reduced programme for 2023/24.

“We are delighted to continue one of our most successful programmes and that we will be able to recruit new schools into the programme from the autumn.”