Work to create a single path providing access to Lancashire’s coast shows no sign of being started – nearly a year after proposals for the route were due to be put forward.
Details of the plan were expected back in January, as part of an on-going project to construct a pathway along the entire length of England’s coastline. But Natural England, the body responsible for the work, has since revealed nothing about the Lancashire stretch of the scheme.
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The Lancashire Local Access Forum (LLAF) heard concerns that the delay could put the plans in jeopardy – and demanded a timetable for when work would begin.
“There is a fixed pot of money in place for this work which will be burning away while nothing happens,” Paul McKeown, the LLAF member representing mountain bikers, told the committee.
“I can’t understand why Natural England doesn’t have a plan for what it’s doing. I imagine that they don’t want to give us a date, because then we can hold them to it,” Mr. McKeown added.
Natural England advised the committee in April that it was “not possible to say” when it would be in a position to publish its reports into the Lancashire route, but promised an update as soon as possible.
It is thought that the delay relates to a European Court of Justice ruling in an unrelated case, which has resulted in the need to review how environmental impact assessments are conducted.
The coastal access scheme will link together footpaths along existing rights of way as well as creating new ones. The Secretary of State for Rural Affairs has to approve the route for each of the 66 different sections of the scheme around the country.
But committee members criticised Natural England for following a predetermined order for carrying out the work.
“The stretch between Blackpool and Lytham is already there,” Rosemary Hogarth, representing long-distance horse-riders, said.
In the North West, the path is expected to run from Silecroft to Silverdale, Silverdale to Cleveleys, Cleveleys to Liverpool Pier Head and Birkenhead to the Welsh Border. None of the suggested routes have yet been published in detail.
Elsewhere in the country, the largest completed stretch of path is in Yorkshire and the North East, running past Scarborough to beyond Newcastle.
Natural England was approached for comment.