Council pulls plug on safe cycling scheme which would have 'solved' Chesterfield school run issue
Campaigners say they are disappointed by a council decision to cancel long-standing plans to create a safe cycling route in Chesterfield.
Residents were hoping to see the Hipper Valley Greenway project included in the major £1.6m east to west cycling route being created by Derbyshire County Council.
However, County Hall has instead routed the cycle path along Chatsworth Road – and has now informed landowners that plans for the cross-country route from Somersall to Holymoorside have been scapped.
The council says it has funding for the plan in place but has not been able to secure the agreement of all concerned parties.
Campaigners say it is a ‘missed opportunity’ to create a safe cycling route for children attending several local schools.
Dr Brendan Ryan, who launched a conversation last summer calling for schools in the town to be linked by safe commuting routes, said the path would be less than 1km long and offered the ‘exciting possibility’ of active travel to more than 300 school children to and from Walton Holymoorside Primary School (WHPS), Brookfield School and St Mary’s School.
"It would allow disabled access from Holymoorside to supermarkets, into town and the train station,” he added.
"It would solve the school run problem at WHPS and reduce it at Brookfield. If this route only brought the percentage of pupils using active travel to get to school up to the national average, it would be over 100 fewer cars on each school run to WHPS alone.”
Dr Ryan said he hoped the council ‘will reconsider its position, preferably before there is a serious accident outside WHPS’.
A letter from the land owners to the county council, seen by the Derbyshire Times, says: “The decision taken negates nearly 20 years of time consuming, expensive negotiations and meetings with us. We have never at any stage opposed the Greenway or Cycle Way.
“The council has never attempted to meet the very real concerns of the various landowners regarding public liability, maintenance and problems of access, or the public’s concern about protective fencing where cattle are kept at the Holymoorside end and the type of surface to be used.”
Chesterfield and District Civic Society has also described an extension of the trail from Somersall Lane to Greendale Avenue as ‘a much more desirable option’ for the cycle route than Chatsworth Road.
However, Alastair Meikle, secretary of the Chesterfield Cycle Campaign, said the proposed route, including Chatsworth Road, remained a ‘step change for cycle infrastructure in Chesterfield’.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “We’ve had a plan to extend the Greenway from Somersall Park on the west side of Chesterfield to Holymoorside for many years and have been negotiating with appropriate landowners for a considerable length of time.
"Although we have been able to secure the necessary funding for this project and have made significant progress we have unfortunately been unable to reach an agreement with all concerned and have therefore decided to not proceed with this section of the route.
“We know that many local people will be disappointed, as are we, but we must concentrate our money and time on projects that we can complete in a reasonable timeframe.”