Council ignored own policies by reopening Keyhole Bridge to traffic

Reopening Keyhole Bridge lost local economy £8.5m it would have made through promotion of active travel
Several pedestrians, dog-walkers and a mother with a pram using the narrow Keyhole Bridge underpass when it was closed to motorised traffic shows how popular the closure was.
Several pedestrians, dog-walkers and a mother with a pram using the narrow Keyhole Bridge underpass when it was closed to motorised traffic shows how popular the closure was.

Council ignored own policies by reopening Keyhole Bridge to traffic

New damning report shows council decision to reopen Keyhole Bridge in Poole was based on flawed analysis - ignoring the health and economic benefits of closure
  • Reopening Keyhole Bridge lost local economy £8.5m it would have made through promotion of active travel according to report
  • Keyhole Bridge Group commissioned and crowdfunded an expert report to analyse the claims made by the council, which debunked them and has found the decision contradicts the council’s own policies
  • Cycling UK says BCP has restricted transport options for residents at time when they need cheap, sustainable options the most

Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, has welcomed the results of a new report which concluded that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council ignored its own policies when it reopened Keyhole Bridge underpass in Poole to rat-running motor traffic.

The Keyhole Bridge underpass in Poole Park was closed to motor traffic under an experimental traffic order (ETRO) in August 2020, making it safer for people cycling, walking and using the park during the pandemic. However, BCP Council closed the 6-month consultation period almost a month early on 22 January 2021, and the bridge was reopened to traffic in March 2021.

It shouldn’t have to be this way – that to get a robust analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a road closure we as citizens have to commission it ourselves. We should be able to trust our local decision-makers do their jobs properly

Sue Smith, member of the Keyhole Bridge Group

The decision to reopen the narrow underpass was based on the council’s assessment that the closure would create delays of around 3 minutes at peak times, which would result in an economic cost of £220,000 per year.

The report, commissioned by local campaigners Keyhole Bridge Group, however found the council ignored the health benefits of cycling and walking in its own economic assessment, with the revised economic analysis the experts carried out demonstrating a positive financial impact of £8.5m over a 20-year period from closing the bridge to motor traffic.

Sue Smith from the Keyhole Bridge Group, comments:

“We obviously welcome this report as it shows the reopening of Keyhole Bridge was never justified. However, we are a small group of local campaigners who have had to fight long and hard to get our voice heard, funded entirely through donations.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way – that to get a robust analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a road closure we as citizens have to commission it ourselves. We should be able to trust our local decision-makers do their jobs properly.”

The Keyhole Bridge Group had previously successfully challenged the decision through a judicial review which ruled in the group’s favour on 18 November 2021. The judge ordered the council to pay the group’s legal costs, and that a further consultation should take place, which is currently ongoing until 8 April.

The report’s authors, KMC Transport Planning, have reviewed the economic case made by the council and concluded the data inputs used to estimate journey delays were inappropriate, giving an overly pessimistic forecast. According to the report, the council failed to take into account the economic benefits from sustainable modes of travel.

KMC has provided a revised economic analysis which demonstrates that closing the underpass permanently would in fact have a positive economic impact.

In line with national policy, BCP Council’s own policies aim to encourage sustainable travel, citing the proven physical and mental health benefits of active travel as a key driving force behind it.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns and advocacy at Cycling UK, states:

“BCP Council’s policies clearly state that it aims to encourage sustainable travel by prioritising walking and cycling, particularly for short journeys, through the reallocation of road space to sustainable modes.

“That is exactly what residents need – choice over how they travel – especially against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis. We know that 71% of all journeys made in England are under five miles and being less car-dependent would be hugely helpful to families who are having to tighten their belts.

“Yet BCP Council is looking backward and robbing people of that option. Sadly, we see this happening all too often, with local authorities caving into pressure from a noisy minority instead of implementing their own stated policies based on the evidence.”

Residents and locals still have an opportunity to submit their views to BCP’s consultation by Friday, 08 April.

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please call Tiia Jaakola on 07867 175716 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320 713

Notes to editors 

Notes to Editors:

  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. For more information, see the full report.
  3. The Keyhole Bridge Group successfully campaigned for a judicial review after BCP council reopened the bridge to motor vehicles, and on 18 November a court decision was made in their favour. For more information on the case, see https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/campaign-win-judicial-review-sup...
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