Up for grabs was a single chunk of lottery money, no less than £50 million! But unusually the population at large had the chance to decide which good cause should be the recipient of all at that dosh by voting on the phone or on the internet. This week saw the announcement of the eventual winner, the number of contenders having been reduced to a final four. Much local interest had centred on the Eden Project in mid Cornwall where they were looking to add to their existing iconic structures with what would be called 'The Edge'. This would have been a state-of-the-art building to demonstrate the impact of climate change. Now I have to admit that the publicity surrounding the build up to the final voting and any comparison between 'The Edge' and its three competitors had passed me by; not that I wasn't interested it's just the clock ticking too fast - if only one had more time to follow such things! Another finalist, a project called Connect2, was submitted by the charity Sustrans. So far as their overall mission is concerned I can't do better than quote from their website - "Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity. Our vision is a world in which people can choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. Every day we are working on practical, innovative ways of dealing with the transport challenges that affect us all."
"Connect2 will transform local travel within 79 communities UK-wide. New bridges and crossings over busy roads, railways and rivers will link into newly created networks of paths, giving many more millions of people direct and continuous access by foot and bike to the places they want to get to every day" say Sustrans. An astonishing 42% of voters went with the transport charity to the bitter disappointment of the Eden team. I am a great admirer of Tim Smit and his team and am constantly amazed at what they have achieved in that former clay pit but I have to say that I'm not disappointed that Sustrans have landed this prize. The fact that this money will be spread over the whole country but in relatively small dollops appeals to me (who said I was too parochial!) and it means that these lottery millions will for years to come benefit local communities.
Sustrans win has a good knock on for Devon as well. Out of the 79 individual schemes two are earmarked for us. The first of these is a cycle route between the well populated centres of Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton in the heart of the county. This will incorporate a now redundant railway bridge; there had been a danger of this project being left out in the cold such was its cost. Moving to East Devon the second scheme is for a bridge over the River Otter at Ottery St Mary.
What was so sad for me was all that money squandered on the Millennium Dome at Greenwich could have been given to Sustrans. But that's what happens when things are left to the politicians!