Our response to the Autumn Statement

Chancellor George Osborne today presented his Autumn Statement, updating MPs on the government's taxation and spending plans as the country heads towards next May’s General Election.

It may come as no surprise that both coalition parties are seeking to sweeten the years of belt-tightening austerity but the extra investment in infrastructure and health has particularly attracted our attention.

Seeking to embark upon England’s biggest road-building plan for 35 years the government has pledged £15 billion to improving the road network.

Whilst we recognise last week’s very-welcome announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister that an additional £100 million will be invested in providing safe road crossings for walkers, we are disappointed that the government has not gone further and stated that it will pursue a ‘green retrofit’ of the existing road network, with strategic underpasses and green bridges for walkers and cyclists.

We’re also concerned about the impact of this road building programme upon our beautiful landscapes, where high standards must be set in order to mitigate noise and pollution.

We hope to see similar high standards in the planning and construction of the major new housing developments the Chancellor announced, including the new 13,000 home garden city in Bicester and the 10,000 home development in Northstowe, near Cambridge. These must be sustainable developments which are designed to fit with their natural surroundings and provide access to green space, as well as offer easy access to public transport and encourage people to travel short distances on foot.

We welcome the recommitment to the completion of England's coastal path by 2020, and the promise of the Ordnance Survey’s free online map of all publicly-available green space in England and Wales.

Investing in this way will bring other benefits as well, including improving public health and reducing pressure on the NHS budget, where getting more people walking would save the country up to £30 billion per year. Walking has proven health benefits and the Walking for Health project, run by us in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, is helping to promote them.

Behind the spending splurge and the shiny new headline-grabbing project the story remains the same: austerity will continue and for longer than we originally planned. The Chancellor was forced to admit today that he has missed his original target to reduce the national deficit and it is still too high. And whoever assumes power next May will be faced with difficult choices about where to cut their budgets.

The good news here is that walking can offer part of the solution, and as Election Day approaches we will continue to make the case for investing in walking and the infrastructure that supports it. You can help us by making the case for walking to your local parliamentary candidates – join us and together we can build a walking Britain.