THE development of new cycling and walking routes across South Ayrshire is facing delays after the Scottish Government made changes to the way it funds programmes.

Until now, councils have made bids for traffic, transportation and active travel projects to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), Transport Scotland and Sustrans.

South Ayrshire Council has submitted bids worth £6.7 million for 2024/25.

The Scottish Government also provided additional funding for cycling and walking routes as a direct grant.

But following a review by Transport Scotland, that approach has now been changed - and local authority officials have warned that it may cause "significant ramifications to council funding in future years".

The council’s cabinet heard that a number of individual grant schemes are now being closed, with the funding to be included in a new direct block grant for active travel delivery.

This grant is to be part of a 'tier 1' award that will be largely used for the design element of active travel infrastructure projects.

While the council admits it hasn’t been told how much it will receive, it is hopeful it will at least be close to the existing combined grants.

While it will not be ring-fenced, there will be a caveat in councils applying for tier 2 funding. That will provide cash for the construction of those projects.

Councils who have made use of the  grant for active travel and have successfully delivered the design stage will have an advantage when it comes to the distribution of tier 2 grants.

A number of applications have been made to both Sustrans and the newly created Active Travel Infrastructure Fund (ATIF), which will be the source of larger construction grants.

The council report indicates that a change to the timing of submissions for grants will prove problematic.

It states: “Applications for Tier 2 funding will be submitted to Transport Scotland annually in January which again is a significant change to previous and will result in delays to projects in the short term.”

A top tier has also been developed for major projects such as bridges, and is also likely to be dependant on councils delivering their tier 2 projects.

Ayrshire Roads Alliance will submit proposals that will identify priority projects which can be ready should additional funding become available.

Reduction in carbon emissions is one of the key purposes of active travel, with officers continuing to explore alternatives to traditional construction materials and techniques to ‘significantly’ reduce the carbon cost of improving/maintaining existing active travel routes and the during construction of new active travel routes.

However, the report reveals the inherent difficulties in moving away from more commonplace materials and construction.

It states that the use of ‘non-standard items with a lower embedded carbon content’ has caused significant delays during the procurement process as these items are not included in the frameworks the council currently works with.

Councillor Bob Pollock said: “There are concerns about the funding being moved to January. That can create particular difficulties for us this year.

“I would remind everybody of the absolute success and ambition that the council has in offering active travel.

"It is recognised  at a national level that South Ayrshire is regarded as one of the best councils in terms of identifying and offering active travel projects.”

He sought to address a common complaint from residents.

He said: “The constant complaint get we hear from the public is 'why put active travel in when we can’t fill potholes?'.

“I would re-emphasise, this is a completely different funding stream and is ring-fenced at a national level.”

He also praised the work of Ayrshire Roads Alliance for the engagement with communities.