£50m of lottery cash will be spent to encourage cycling and walkingCyclists are big winners in a competition that saw a £50m lottery grant awarded to a Sustrans scheme.

£50m of lottery cash will be spent to encourage cycling and walking

The People’s £50 Million Giveaway, decided by votes from members of the public, will also mean improvements to schemes for walking routes. Sustrans, the campaigning charity for sustainable transport, says the money will benefit 79 different projects across the United Kingdom.

The big idea is to revitalise and create routes which people use every day, on their way to work, to shop or to play. Bridges will be built across busy road, rivers and railway lines to create a network of cycle routes and paths. Sustrans says that 6m people live within a mile of one of the schemes in the Connect2 plan.

Connect2 beat off competitors The Eden Project, Sherwood Forest and a Black Country urban park bid.

Extra cash from the projects will come from local authorities, with almost £100m of support for the various schemes. John Grimshaw, chief executive of Sustrans, thanked all those who supported the organisation’s bid: “This is fantastic news, and thanks to everyone who voted for Sustrans’s Connect2 in the People’s £50 Million Lottery Giveaway, and for your help in winning £50 million of funding from the Big Lottery Fund for Sustrans to invest in walking and cycling UK-wide.

“This really is an amazing achievement for our charity and the many local authority and other partners with whom we will work on Connect2. We simply couldn’t have done it without you and your votes.

“We start work on delivering Connect2 in January 2008. Our local-authority partners are poised ready to go, and will be adding matched funding from their own transport and other budgets to the £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund. This is a five year project, and in total we have already identified nearly £100 million of local authority funding to support Connect2, and we are working hard to bring even more funding to the project so that we can ensure as many people as possible benefit from Connect2.”

In the grand tradition of modern British meritocratic decision making, each bid had a ‘champion’. Sustrans’s was Lorraine Kelly, who is a television presenter. Her message in support of Connect2 was: “I’d love to see more people get fit and active. Connect2 makes this possible for millions across the UK and would improve our environment too.”

That probably did the trick in persuading 42 per cent of all those who voted to back her pet project.

Public figures backing the unsuccessful bids were Brian Blessed, who has twice failed to climb Everest; Ray Mears who is accompanied by film crews to demonstrate how to survive alone in the wild on just your wits and the environment, and Toyah Wilcox, who sang It’s a Mystery.

Those unlucky winners in the bid for £50m may care to check their lottery tickets for a more modest estimated £2.5m in the midweek Lotto draw. The winning numbers are: 19, 20, 23, 42, 44 and 45.