Why are taxpayers funding charities that want to rid the roads of cars? Fury over pro-walking and cycling groups raking in millions in government funds to push anti-vehicle agenda across UK

  • EXCLUSIVE: British authorities have paid eco-campaigners hundreds of millions 
  • Have YOUR neighbours built a ‘parklet?’: Email [email protected] 

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been funneled into charities who have helped push through blanket 20mph traffic zones and campaigned for hated LTNs and parklets – to the fury of Tory MPs. 

In the financial years of 2022 and 2023 combined, , eco-conscious charity Sustrans has received more than £190million from government agencies across Britain to push forward its ‘liveable cities’ campaign. 

Fellow green campaigners Living Streets also pocketed £10.6million in the financial years of 2020 and 2021 combined which they poured into implementing Low Traffic Neighborhoods (LTNs) to the UK along other more niche endeavors like ‘residential parklets’.

The prodigious wealth of charities whose sole aim is seemingly to inconvenience motorists has enraged some Tory MPs including Peter Bone, who told MailOnline they ‘should be funding themselves.’ 

Sustrans, who were heavily involved in the campaign to bring in Wales’ deeply unpopular blanket 20mph zones, has a mission statement to create ‘areas where everyone can thrive without having to use a car.’ 

Eco-charities have collected millions of pounds from the government to create hated LTN’s

An artists impression of how a London road will look once its been converted from a LTN to a ‘permanent public space’

Many British towns and cities have found themselves consumed by the slow creep of 20mph zones 

Helped by taxpayer’s pounds, the group says they make ‘the case for long-term political commitment, funding, policy and laws that will result in more people walking and cycling’ at the expense of ‘private motorists.’

READ MORE: The slow death of driving: How 20mph zones are part of a far bigger plot to ban cars from UK towns and cities and restrict private ownership of vehicles

Also a key supporter of the Welsh Labour government’s 20mph schemes, Living Streets has campaigned for a number of changes to the Highway Code in recent years including a ban on pavement parking and idling cars. 

The group also advocates for communities to ‘reclaim’ sections of the road reserved for the parking of cars and transform them instead into ‘parklets’ where residents can congregate.

Mr Bone told MailOnline: ‘Call me old fashioned but when I think of charities, people give money to that charity and they do good work.

‘You might support the lifeboats, Mencap or National Trust. But why is people’s tax money, via various organisations… being given to campaign groups?

‘Surely they should be funding themselves if people want to do these things?’

The former minister added: ‘I doubt if many people in my constituency would support people who are trying to bring in 20mph zones, or reducing access to car parking.

‘If their money is going to organisations that are anti (cars) then they would be pretty fed up. But until someone discovers this most people are completely unaware of this happening.

‘If people want to campaign on issues, fine. But I wouldn’t expect public money to be going into these organisations. That sounds wrong.’

Sustrans public spaces cut off from cars from entry and replace parking spaces with ‘cycle hangars or new street trees’

An artists impression of how a London road will look once its been converted from a LTN to a ‘permanent public space’

Between 2022 and 2023, Sustrans received £146million in grants from Transport Scotland which it then distributed to local authorities across the country to implement cycle paths and traffic calmed areas as part of their ‘Places for Everyone’ initiative. 

The charity claims that their campaign ‘contributes to the Scottish Government’s aim for a healthier, environmentally sustainable nation’ but motorists have increasingly born the brunt of the changes which are explicitly anti-driving. 

One of the key tenets of the ‘Places for Everyone’ initiative is the ‘reallocation of road space’ and the ‘prioritisation of people walking, cycling and wheeling’ over motorists. 

In 2021, the group were instrumental in convincing the Scottish Borders Council to implement a blanket 20mph speed limit across all towns and villages in the Borders.

Next year, Glasgow City Council has also announced it will bring in a citywide 20mph speed limit across all roads at a cost of £4.5million – part funded by Sustrans. 

Elsewhere, the group has accepted funds from Transport for London to consult on the development of Low Traffic Neighborhoods and ‘create nicer environments for walkers and cyclists.’

Over the course of the pandemic, 62 miles of cycle lanes were installed in the capital and Mayor Sadiq Khan this month announced a further 40 miles (65km) worth of roads in the capital are set to become 20mph zones by the end of 2023. 

The London Borough of Lambeth commissioned the charity to transform five temporary low traffic neighborhoods in the borough into ‘public spaces’

Last year, the London Borough of Lambeth commissioned the charity to transform five temporary low traffic neighborhoods in the borough into ‘public spaces.’ 

Once completed, the five streets in Oval, Tulse Hill, Ferndale, Railton and Streatham will be cut off from cars with parking spaces replaced with ‘cycle hangars or new street trees.’ 

On their website, the group claims that all concerned residents need to do to get their own areas ‘transformed into beautiful public spaces’ is to contact them and they’ll ‘make it happen’. 

Compatriots Living Streets, who describe themselves as the UK charity for everyday walking, have also been busy with the millions of pound they’ve been handed by the government. 

Between 2020-2021, the group was the beneficiary of £10.6million pounds from government channels.

Fellow campaigners Walking Cities claim the UK should make ‘healthy streets’ by ‘reducing the volume and speed of motor traffic and reallocate space to people on foot’

An example of one of Living Street’s ‘parklets’ a small stretch of road cordoned off from cars

The group believes that parklets are essential in helping communities reduce the risk of social isolation 


If the evidence of their achievements in the last three years is anything to go by they haven’t been short of cash.  

Proudly boasting on their website that they ‘did it’, the group explained that they were part of the original task force to advise the Welsh government on the proposals and had provided ‘evidence to decision-makers in the Senedd’ to get the policy over the line. 

The group also advocates for the creation of parklets in place of parking spaces and has provided a guide for residents to campaign for their own. 

Their guide reads: ‘Anyone can set up a parklet or a pop-up park to transform streets into a vibrant community hot spot. 

‘You’ll need permission from your local council, but after that, it can be easier than you might think. Why not work together with your neighbours to improve your local area for everyone who lives there?

‘At the moment, parklets do not exist as a legal concept in the UK, but with a lot of perseverance, you might be able to persuade your local council to see the benefit of creating one in your community.’ 

When they’re not causing congestion by advocating for pop up tent ‘parks’ on public highways, the group has turned its attention to larger city wide projects.  

Living Streets has named Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and the capital as its ‘target cities’ for a project known as ‘Walking Cities.’ 

In their ambitious blueprint for change, the group claims that it is key to design ‘healthy streets’ by ‘reducing the volume and speed of motor traffic and reallocate space to people on foot.’

Eventually, they claim, it would be preferable to ‘develop a long-term strategy to reduce the number of motor vehicles in town and city centres’ to ‘free up space for walking and cycling.’

In order to make walking safer, the group stresses it would be be key to ‘restrain excessive vehicle speeds by enforcement.’ 

MailOnline has approached Sustrans and Living Streets for comment. 

A spokesman for Living Streets said: ‘Living Streets’ income from charitable activities was not £10.6 million in one year. 

‘For the financial year ending 2021, this was £4,827,012 and for the financial year ending 2020, we received £5,798,981. £10.6 million is the combined total for two financial years. 

‘This covers income from all charitable activities, including grants from central and local government, contracts, and funding from trusts, foundations and other organisations.

We received funding from government to deliver specific projects, including supporting more children and families to travel to school safely with our walk to school programme. 

‘We do not receive funding from national or local government for campaigning.’

A Sustrans spokesperson said: ‘We do not recognise several assertions made in this article. Accurate numbers relating to our finances can be found in our Annual Report.’

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