Will the Penwortham Loop make town a haven for cyclists?

Penwortham's answer to Preston’s Guild Wheel is set to be completed with a £314,000 cycle and pedestrian pathway alongside the River Ribble.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 18th March 2022, 3:45 pm

Council chiefs are expected to give the nod for the final piece of the 10-kilometre Penwortham Loop which links Priory Park and Howick next week.

The South Ribble cabinet is about to award the contract to the Ribble Valley based Wade Group after a tendering exercise.

But because inflation has meant the cost will now exceed the £250,000 originally allocated for the project, members will be asked to approve the transfer of an additional £64,415 from the authority's Green Links budget to top it up.

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Priory Park where the final link of the Penwortham Loop will start.

The Loop is a three-metre wide leisure way around Higher Penwortham, linking and improving existing routes to create a new accessible pathway for cyclists, joggers and walkers.

It is a smaller version of neighbouring Preston's 21-mile Guild Wheel which encircles the city and has been hugely popular since it was opened in 2012.

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The Loop will make Penwortham one of the most cycle-friendly towns in Lancashire. It already has a "cycle superhighway" which passes along the main shopping street and down the hill, taking riders into Preston city centre.

The Penwortham Loop is a vital part of South Ribble's Green Links project, launched in 2019 and costing the authority £1.4m over four years.

A report to the cabinet on Wednesday says: "The £250,000 original budget was set in year one to upgrade the largely unpaved informal route alongside the Ribble to Howick.

"With the increase in materials costs experienced over the past two years we now have a budget shortfall. The funding shortfall can be funded from the unallocated Green Links budget.

"It is (the) officer’s recommendation to fund the shortfall and install a robust path . . . which will be fit for purpose for years to come. This is no doubt the long-term best value option."

The other option considered, says the report, was a "value engineered surface" to come in under budget, similar to a path constructed adjacent to the River Lostock.

"Our experience has told us that such a path will need regular maintenance/reconstruction after a large flood event which in the long term is not best value.

"Other elements of this scheme will be improving access from adjacent paths onto this route as well as a full signage and interpretation scheme.

"The completed route will provide a fantastic new community asset available and accessible to all sections of the local community.

"From recreational walkers through to serious runners, from families out for a bike ride to cycle groups meeting on a club day, the new route will provide opportunities for all."

The Loop will make Penwortham one of the most cycle-friendly towns in Lancashire. It already has a "cycle superhighway" which passes through the town and down the hill, taking riders into Preston city centre.

But the green route, which more than halves the width of the main Liverpool Road near to the Tesco store, has been roundly criticised because few cyclists have been using it since it was fully opened in December.

Critics say the superhighway is too wide and too obtrusive, catering for just a handful of riders coming in and out of Penwortham.