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Lancashare

Official opening of Britannia Greenway cycling route

County Councillor Michael Green opening the Greenway with Councillor Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council.

Bacup celebrated the official opening of the Britannia Greenway on Saturday 7 July, part of a major new cycling and walking route being developed to link areas throughout East Lancashire.

Local people gathered to process along the 1km route from New Line Picnic Site on their bikes, horses, scooters, and on foot, following a ribbon cutting performed by County Councillor Michael Green, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for economic development, environment, and planning.

Mid-Pennine Arts hosted an event at the picnic site featuring strolling performers, activities for children, and a story teller, with music from Whitworth and Healey Brass Band. People also had the chance to decorate their chosen form of transport, or themselves, before setting out on the route.

The opening of the greenway marks the completion of the first section of the Valley of Stone route, one of four routes which make up the East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway project. This will create 23km of new multi-user routes and improve 95km of existing routes in East Lancashire by 2020.

Total funding for the project is £5.85m as part of the £250m Growth Deal secured from government by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) with local contributions from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council. The Britannia Greenway belongs to Rossendale Borough Council.

County Councillor Green said: "I'm very pleased to be able to open one of the first sections of this cycle network, which will make a real difference to people's travel options, encourage healthy lifestyles, and help to boost the economy.

"The aim is to create a joined-up network that provides access to workplaces, schools, colleges and other services, as well as creating opportunities for tourism and recreation.

"This investment is allowing us to transform largely old disused railway lines, which in parts are muddy, narrow and difficult to negotiate, into greenways which are great for all sorts of activities. They will be places where you can teach a child how to ride their bike, take toddlers for a walk or in a pushchair, use a wheelchair or mobility vehicle, go for a horse ride, bike ride, run, or take a leisurely walk."

Graham Cowley, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership's Growth Deal Management Board, said: "Improving sustainable transport options is vital to widen access to economic opportunities and this investment will have a real impact by making cycling attractive and accessible to many more people in East Lancashire.

"These schemes complement the multi-million-pound investments which the LEP is already making to deliver the transport infrastructure we need to support our economy and attract further investment into the county."

Councillor Barbara Ashworth, Rossendale Council portfolio holder for health, said: "We have lots of great leisure facilities in Rossendale and this is just another reason to get out and about in the borough and to get active.

"The Britannia Greenway is a wonderful facility away from busy roads which will be used by people of all ages for lots of different activities.

"The Northern Grip mountain bike festival also took place at Lee Quarry at the weekend. It was a great celebration of cycling and, who knows, maybe a youngster who learns to ride a bike on the greenway could be showing off their skills at the festival in future."

There are 4 routes included within the project - 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.

Britannia Greenway is part of the Valley of Stone route. For several years it has been very difficult to use due to water damage and the previous stone surface washing out and becoming badly eroded.

It has been widened and resurfaced using a flexible surface made from an estimated 10,500 recycled tyres. This provides excellent grip, whilst being easy on joints for runners and equestrian users. It is also porous so that water runs through it easily, reducing the risk of standing water and sheet ice in winter.

Future plans for the East Lancashire Cycleway project include restoration and reopening of the disused railway tunnels in Stacksteads, a new cycle and horse-friendly bridge in Stacksteads Country Park and numerous surfacing improvements along the cycleway routes.