There is no connection between plans to create a network of paths linking South Ribble’s major open spaces and the future of some of the borough’s smaller playgrounds and parks.
That was the message from a cabinet member on South Ribble Council who condemned “scaremongering” over the issue.
The authority wrote to some of its residents late last year advising them that it was “considering all appropriate uses” for several pieces of open space which did not form part of its green links strategy - including whether they could help “address the gap in affordable homes” in the borough.
Amongst the residents who received a letter were those living near to the area known as Strawberry Valley, on Bent Lane in Leyland. They launched a petition in defence of the open space and playground which they felt had been put under threat.
At a cabinet meeting, Labour opposition member Matthew Tomlinson said the letter received by locals living close to the sites had referred “extensively” to the green links project.
“Some residents are making a connection between these playgrounds and the green links - are we going to get rid of the playgrounds to pay for [them]?” he asked.
But the meeting heard from council officers that the green network was already part of the borough’s capital programme - and so was not dependent on the sale of land.
And cabinet member for regeneration and leisure, Phil Smith, pressed home the point during a discussion on specific proposals for the green links plan.
“[This report] certainly doesn’t say anything about closing playgrounds down. There’s an awful lot of scaremongering going on about things like that - and I wish it would stop,” he said.
The cabinet agreed that a senior officer should be allowed to make the final decision on a contract for one of the first stages of the green network - the installation of a path between Brownedge and Walton-le-dale. It is estimated that the stone surface, which will also connect to local neighbourhoods and improve access to Dog Kennel Woods, will cost £140,000.
The council has published a 10-year vision for the network, which will be made up of a series of paths designed to be multi-use and where no individual user group has priority. The majority of the routes are expected to be 3 metres wide to allow for easy passing and to make them accessible for all.
Deputy leader of the Conservative-run authority, Caroline Moon, said the project was “unique” to South Ribble.
“I’m pleased that we’re not just focusing on...putting the green links in, but maintaining them so that they’re in as good a condition in ten years.
“I don’t want this to be a flash in the pan. It will be unique to have green links wrapping the whole borough and I can envisage a sponsored ‘something’ to do the whole [route],” she predicted.