Just a few 'missing links' left to complete East Lancs cycleway

A major project to create a comprehensive network of walking and cycling links throughout East Lancashire has entered its final phase.

The East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway involves establishing 23km of new multi-user routes and improving 95km of existing paths to create joined-up routes which people can use for everyday travel, as well as providing opportunities for tourism and recreation.

Work is now ongoing to complete a handful of remaining 'missing links', with the project expected to be finished around the end of 2024.

Lancashire County Council's cabinet has given the green light to proposals for a further vital link in the network – a section of 'shared-use' track for cyclists and pedestrians along part of Bacup Road in Waterfoot.

This will form part of the Valley of Stone Greenway which runs between Rawtenstall in the north and the Lancashire border near Whitworth to the south.

Most of this route consists of off-road and quiet back road sections with little vehicle traffic. However, short sections of shared-use path are sometimes proposed as the solution to link these sections where the route meets busier locations such as Bacup Road.

The cabinet agreed plans for a 160-metre length of shared-use track between Holt Mill Road and Stansfield Road, along with no-waiting restrictions to operate between 8am and 6pm Monday to Saturday to ensure good visibility and prevent the track being restricted by parked vehicles.

A report to the cabinet detailed responses to public consultations on the plans which were advertised in January and February 2023.

County Councillor Rupert Swarbrick, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "The creation of well-signed and easily accessible cycle and walking routes linking towns and villages throughout East Lancashire will make a huge difference to people's travel options, and our environment team has been making determined progress on this for a number of years.

"A number of notable improvements have already been made, from transforming kilometres of previously muddy paths to create the Britannia Greenway, to reopening disused railway tunnels in Waterfoot, resulting in the creation of practical and enjoyable routes which link centres of population while largely avoiding busy roads.

"It's exciting that we've reached the stage where we only have a handful of missing links left to complete the East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway, and I'm pleased that cabinet has agreed to support these latest plans to join existing sections in Waterfoot via a new section of shared-use track.

"We have ambitious targets to increase the number of people regularly cycling and walking in Lancashire, and improvements to our infrastructure such as this are vital to support this goal."

The East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway is made up of four routes - the Weavers Wheel around Blackburn, the Valley of Stone connecting Rawtenstall to Whitworth, National Cycle Network Route 6 (NCN6) linking Accrington to Stubbins and the Huncoat Greenway near Accrington.

The county council is working on further improvements in Baxenden, Bacup, Rawtenstall, Rising Bridge, Stacksteads, and Whitworth to complete the network in Lancashire.