The coronavirus pandemic, lockdown, and ongoing public health restrictions, has inevitably impacted our plans for development of an active travel route between Lossiemouth and Hopeman in 2020.

Despite delays to the plans, progress has been made, and we are well on our way to completing the second stage in Sustrans’ Places For Everyone Scheme, focusing on Concept Design. Our consultants, Pell Frischmann, are doing all they can around the restrictions to complete their assessments and negotiate with landowners, and Sustrans have committed to continue supporting us despite these delays.

Should we receive permission from all landowners, and continue to receive on-going support from the community as a whole, then we can look forward to hopefully progressing the project to the third stage of the Places for Everyone scheme, Developed Design, in 2021. Stages four and five, for Technical Design and Construction, respectively, are not fully funded by Sustrans, so much of our group’s work from this point forth will involve seeking match funding.

This year has not been all doom and gloom, however, as there has been a huge upsurge in people taking to active travel, whether to undertake their daily exercise, or to get from A to B by means other than public transport. The Scottish Government’s travel advice is to use active travel wherever possible, and they’ve committed to fully fund Sustrans’ Spaces For People, providing temporary infrastructure improvements to keep people safer when travelling actively, e.g. widening paths and pavements to allow for social distancing.

The other good news story of 2020 for our group is Sustrans increasing their contribution of funding in the Places For Everyone scheme. Not only do they offer funding for 100% of the design costs, but they are also now offering 70% of the construction costs, easing the pressure on us, somewhat, to find match funding, and making the dream of a dedicated, traffic-free path between Lossiemouth and Hopeman that little bit more of a reality.