The prospect of a continuous path around Lancashire’s coast has moved a step closer after it was announced that plans for part of the route are to be published later this year.
The long-delayed proposals are part of a government-backed project to make England’s coastline more accessible by linking up existing footpaths and creating new ones.
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But Natural England, the body responsible for creating the network, was stopped in its tracks last year – just as it was poised to put forward its vision for the route around Lancashire.
A European Court of Justice ruling on a separate case in Ireland meant that assessments of the potential impact of the paths on wildlife habitats had to be reconsidered.
But a meeting of Lancashire’s Local Access Forum (LLAF) heard that details of the stretch of footpath between Silverdale and Cleveleys are now likely to be published in August. Landowners will then have eight weeks in which they can raise any objections and the public can also submit comments.
But Danny Moores, from Natural England, told members that the 50-mile trail would be split into smaller stretches for the purposes of the consultation period in an attempt to prevent an objection to one part of it delaying the whole project still further.
“The proposal has to be approved by the Secretary of State before we can get on with creating the path,” he explained.
“That cannot happen until after any objection has been heard by the Planning Inspectorate, which can hold things up for six months or more.
“So we have created a series of mini-reports which can be approved in their own right and we can start work on those sections straight away.”
The meeting heard that plans for the next stretch of path to be created in Lancashire – running 77 miles from Cleveleys, around the Fylde coast and then beyond the county’s borders to Liverpool – are due to follow in January 2020. That section of the trail has been complicated by the need for a new foot crossing over the River Douglas.
Danny Moores told members that it would be “beyond the coastal footpath programme to fund” – and could require cash form a third party source.
LLAF chair, Richard Toon, praised Natural England for its work so far.
“It’s a massive area to look at and you have had to conceive of every possible complexity,” he said.
There are a total of 66 individual sections of path planned for England’s coastline. So far, only 13 have been completed – with the only open stretch in the North West running from Allonby to Whitehaven in Cumbria.