Cycling UK win: council admits illegal action in removing popular cycle lane

West Sussex County Council has admitted it acted illegally when it decided to remove a popular cycle lane in the seaside town of Shoreham in November 2020
  • Court order confirms West Sussex County Council acted illegally following Cycling UK judicial review on removal of cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road, Shoreham
  • Council to pay £25k in costs to cycling charity
  • Charity crowd funded legal challenge through its Cyclists’ Defence Fund

West Sussex County Council has admitted it acted illegally when it decided to remove a popular cycle lane in the seaside town of Shoreham in November 2020.

The council’s declaration is reflected in a court order made in advance of the final hearing of Cycling UK’s judicial review which was set to be heard in the High Court on 25 January. As part of the court order, West Sussex CC is instructed to contribute £25k to the cycling charity’s legal fees.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said:

“In Shoreham, Cycling UK has drawn a line in the sand, showing there are repercussions for councils which ignore government guidance. Hopefully West Sussex County Council’s acceptance they acted illegally will put a stop to short sighted decisions like this happening across other parts of the UK.

“This is a victory for people who want their children to travel to school in safety, for people who don’t have to breathe polluted air, and for everyone who would like healthier, safer streets where we live and work.”

The cycle lane was installed at the end of September 2020 through government funding to help more people walk and cycle during the pandemic, and was removed weeks later contrary to government guidance.

During its short lifetime the lane was used for 30,000 cycle trips, serving five schools along its length. It also featured in a government publicity video highlighting the community benefits of the new cycle lanes introduced during lockdown in 2020.

Cycling UK now hopes the newly formed funding and inspectorate body, Active Travel England, will mean such legal challenges are no longer necessary. Active Travel England is responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that improve both health and air quality.

“Challenging councils’ which act illegally by ignoring government guidance shouldn’t be the work of charities like Cycling UK,” said Mr Dollimore. “We hope Active Travel England will make sure councils not only promote cycling, but ensure they act lawfully and don’t waste public funds.”

Cycling UK’s legal challenge was funded through its Cyclists’ Defence Fund, which was set up to help fight landmark legal battles which the charity believes will benefit everyone who cycles in the UK.

“Cycling UK is truly grateful for all the support we’ve received from the public who have helped to fund our legal battle in Shoreham,” said Mr Dollimore. “We hope they can continue to support us and our ongoing work to make the UK a better place for everyone.”

Rowan Smith, lead solicitor on this case from Leigh Day, said:

“This is a massive legal, as well as campaigning, victory that will benefit cyclists in West Sussex and across the country. Cycling UK has achieved a big win in upholding statutory guidance to embed more climate-friendly travel, which it hopes will contribute to a greener post-pandemic recovery. Such great news comes in the wake of the Government setting up Active Travel England, a new body with powers to rank local authorities on the quality of cycling provision in their areas.”

Estelle Dehon, barrister at Cornerstone Barristers (who, with Dr Christina Lienen, acted for Cycling UK), said:

“At its heart, this case is about the value of active travel, both in terms of promoting human health by reducing air pollution and in addressing the climate crisis. The Statutory Guidance which the Council should have followed made this clear.

“Building on our client’s legal success, it is now time for a consistent approach to be taken across the UK, similar to that in Wales, where there is a strong obligation on all local planning authorities to promote active travel. Given how many deaths are caused by air pollution, and the need for the most urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this should be a top priority.”

Since removal of the cycle lane, West Sussex County Council has made a public commitment to increase space for cycling on the A270 Upper Shoreham Road. Cycling UK urges the council to move on to delivery, having proper regard to its Network Management Duty and relevant statutory guidance in finalising and implementing a permanent cycle way along that route.

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often.
  2. Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund helps fight significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those that could set important precedents for the future and could affect the safety of all cyclists.
  3. Governmental statutory guidance on the reallocation of road space for cycling and walking:


09 May 2020: The Government announced the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) and the legislative measures to support making changes to the road network.

27 May: The Department for Transport (“DfT”) wrote to local authorities giving further details about the EATF, making it clear that the EATF funding was aimed at, and awarded for, schemes which could bring about long-term change and encourage active travel, such as cycling, rather than just focusing on measures responding to Covid-19.

05 June: West Sussex County Council (WSCC) applied for the first tranche of funding available under the EATF.

26 June: WSCC was awarded £781,000 from Tranche 1 of the EATF to allow implementation of seven new and improved pop-up cycle lane schemes, including the cycle lane on Upper Shoreham Road.

21 July: WSCC published its decision to allocate the funds received from the grant to the relevant budgets and to implement the seven schemes.

07 September: Work implementing the cycle lane at Upper Shoreham Road commenced.

25 September: WSCC announced that the work on the cycle lane was completed, although additional works were still being undertaken throughout October.

03 November: Councillor Roger Elkins took the decision to remove all the emergency active travel schemes, including the Upper Shoreham Road cycle lane.

18 November: WSCCs Environment and Scrutiny Committee called in the decision concerning the removal of the Upper Shoreham Road cycle lane, noting that the scheme had exceeded expectations and that it was questionable why a successful scheme should be removed.

25 November: Councillor Elkins confirmed the decision to remove the cycle lane.

11 January 2021: Work commenced to remove the cycle lane, which was undertaken over a period of several days.

25 February: Cycling UK applied for judicial review

26 May: At a hearing in the High Court, Mr Justice Lane refused Cycling UK’s applications for permission to pursue the judicial review.

02 June: Cycling UK appealed Mr Justice Lane’s decision, which was considered in the Court of Appeal.

01 September: Cycling UK discovered its appeal had been allowed and High Court appearance scheduled for 25 – 26 January 2022.

27 January 2021: Cycling UK announces out of court settlement with West Sussex County Council admitting it acted illegally and will pay £25k towards the charity’s legal expenses

Press contact information

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please email Out of hours, call 07786 320 713