Fears have been raised that Shropshire Council will miss out on government funding due to a lack of commitment to active travel.

The council is one of 13 to be excluded from the government’s Capability Fund, which last week allocated an average of £230,000 each to 59 local authorities across England to promote cycling and walking.

While the council says it is confident it will receive funding later in the year, it has led to concern that future schemes could be put at risk unless more priority is given to active travel.

Announcing the Capability Fund allocations, the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “We have, in some cases, given the recent record of an authority, halted all funding until we can be sure of the authority’s commitment to active travel.”

For the successful authorities, the money will go towards developing plans for new cycling and walking infrastructure, and behaviour change activities such as training and promotion.

The matter was raised at a meeting of the place overview committee by Copthorne councillor Rob Wilson, who asked what reasons the DfT had given for excluding Shropshire Council from the fund.

Steve Smith, assistant director of infrastructure, said: “The DfT has simply requested evidence of continued political commitment to active travel, given that there has been a change in council leadership since the original council response, but hope to award funding by September upon receipt of this.

“The council has already responded providing that commitment requested and we have been assured that there are no other outstanding queries from the DfT.”

Mr Smith added that there was “no indication” yet as to how much money the council might be awarded.

Councillor Wilson also asked for assurance that the council was taking steps to prioritise active travel in future highways and transport planning, following a warning from government that overall highways funding for councils who do not do this will be cut.

The DfT’s ‘Gear Change: One Year On’ review, also published last week, said an authority’s performance on active travel will be taken into account in determining “the wider funding allocations it received, not just on active travel”.

Councillor Wilson said: “Whilst I am pleased that Shropshire Council now has an active travel officer in post, this is only a solitary temporary appointment, other local authorities have permanent teams.

“I welcome that it is finally developing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), however some local authorities have had these in place for five years.

“It is clear that Shropshire is lagging badly behind.

“The DfT has warned local authorities that do not make significant progress on active travel, that their overall highways funding is at risk.”

He asked how the council proposed to “catch up and even overtake” other areas, and whether there were plans to create a dedicated active travel fund.

Mr Smith said he was aware of the government’s stance on active travel with regards to wider highways funding implications, and that the council would be in a strong position once its LCWIP had been adopted.

He said: “While the council currently only has a single dedicated officer for active travel, the service also has considerable support of its professional consultants WSP, who are experts in the field of active travel.

“The service is currently considering the ongoing needs for resourcing active travel as work moves from strategy development to delivery.

“The council is developing its Local Transport Plan, of which the LCWIP will form a key part, and it’s therefore felt that the Shropshire strategy will better meet contemporary needs compared to others.

“As with any investment the council will consider how the finite funding is best spent to meet the needs of the whole county.

“Once the LCWIP has been adopted, funding will need to be considered against other needs at the time.

“A Local Transport Plan and LCWIP which meet contemporary needs will place the authority in a strong position for bidding for external funds as they are made available.”

Following the meeting, Councillor Wilson said missing out on the initial Capability Fund allocations should serve as a “wake up call”.

He said: “There are great examples up and down the country of local authorities making real positive changes for their residents on active travel. Shropshire needs to catch up or we’ll all suffer for it.”

Councillor Alex Wagner, who represents Bowbrook, added: “The government want to see local authorities with strong political leadership taking walking and cycling seriously, and are willing to boost ailing road budgets for those that do.

“Shropshire is being singled out as behind the curve on this, and as a result losing hundreds of thousands worth of investment.”