I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 38 together.
As the Deputies are aware, the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future sets out an ambitious range of commitments in relation to active travel as part of our shared desire to fundamentally change the nature of transport in Ireland.
I am pleased to say that good progress has been made against most of these commitments since the formation of the Government last summer and I am keen to ensure that this progress is maintained in the coming years.
In relation to the specific commitments referred to by the Deputies there are a number of positive steps undertaken or underway in relation to it. Last summer guidance issued to all local authorities in relation to improving the allocation of road-space in urban centres – be they villages, towns or cities – as part of the response to the COVID-19 but also seeking to ensure a multi-disciplinary approach to street design and the promotion of the principles of universal design.
That guidance was in turn supported by financial supports made available by my Department to local authorities under Government’s July Stimulus and the benefits of schemes rolled out under that Stimulus can already be seen in many areas across the country.
As part of Budget 2021 significant additional financial supports have been made available to support active travel and as part of those supports a new Active Travel Fund was announced toward the end of last year. This funding is being used to develop a new stream of funding support for those local authorities outside of the main cities and the announcement stipulated the type of projects envisaged under the Fund, and included the development of active travel strategies in areas where none exist, as well as other potential projects for actual construction.
Finally, another important strand of this overall commitment was the announcement a few weeks ago in relation to establishing and resourcing active travel teams in local authorities across the country. The Deputies will, I am sure, acknowledge that the lack of sufficient resources within local authorities to oversee and deliver the design and roll-out of new infrastructure has been a real constraint in recent years, so I was particularly pleased to see progress made on this front.
As the Deputies can see from the above, there are a range of complementary measures underway which collectively will ensure that Government’s ambition in this area of active travel is realised in the years ahead.