A £2M bike scheme could be back on track after the brakes were applied to initial plans.
The National Park Authority (NPA) had voted against plans for a ‘Boris Bike’-style cycle rental service to be rolled out across the New Forest.
But now a county councillor has come up with a way to resurrect the plans, which would allow the public to hire bicycles to ride around the New Forest, similar to the popular scheme in London nicknamed after mayor Boris Johnson.
Cllr David Harrison wants to roll out the scheme on the edge of the national park – taking it out of the NPA’s control.
The NPA threw out the plans, which would have been paid for with money from central Government, citing concerns over the plan’s business structure and growing ‘anti-cyclist sentiment’ within the Forest.
Support for the project from professional cyclists and a 2,000-signature petition failed to sway members, who were heavily criticised for the decision.
Now Cllr Harrison – who is also a member of the NPA – is tabling a question to the county council and calling upon the executive member for the environment to confirm that there is no reason why officers cannot proceed with the project by placing docking stations outside park boundaries.
He said: “Whilst it is of grave concern that the park authority members tried a few very localised reasons not to proceed in places like Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst, it does not mean that the scheme should not proceed, pretty much as planned.
“Hampshire County Council has been backing this to the hilt and unless the Conservatives on that authority are going to justify a U-turn we ought to see the scheme rolled out in places like Totton, Marchwood, Hythe and Lymington.
“I want to see the money made available by Government put to good use.
“Even my fellow park authority members would, I think, find it hard to object to a scheme that is in the New Forest but based just outside the park boundaries.”
Last year the Department for Transport awarded the New Forest NPA £3.57m to support family cycling, and plans were drawn up for 250 bikes to be made available for hire from 20 docking stations.
But members eventually voted against the scheme, saying that an increasing level of anti-cycling sentiment was present in the New Forest following organised mass cycling events.
Cllr Ken Thornber believes that the money would be better spent on improving the existing cycling infrastructure in the Forest.
He said: “To be frank this idea is before its time and before its infrastructure, and I would not approve. I have grave reservations.”
The money remains unused but the Government has set a deadline of March 31, 2015, by which it must be spent.