South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet has agreed to boost the budget for the so-called “Penwortham Loop” project, which involves the creation of a six-mile, shared-use path from Penwortham Holme to Howick.
It will be formed, in part, by upgrading and connecting the largely unpaved existing trackways alongside the River Ribble to create a new and more accessible leisure route which will also take in Priory Park.
The authority set aside £250,000 for the scheme back in 2019, but since then, increases in the cost of materials have pushed the price tag to £314,000.
A meeting of the cabinet heard that the council had taken that opportunity to rethink the previously-proposed “golden gravel” surface for the path after experience of it elsewhere in the borough.
Labour cabinet member for finance and assets Matthew Tomlinson said that its use alongside the River Lostock in Leyland had shown that it was prone to being washed away in periods of bad weather and flooding.
“And if it is a really high intensity usage [route] - as we are hoping this will be - it does tend to break up over time,” he explained.
The three-metre-wide path, which will be fully complaint with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, will instead be constructed from a tar-based material.
Middleforth ward councillor Keith Martin said that the decision would ensure that the works had a lower “environmental footprint” than if a lesser-quality surface was used and had to be replaced in five years’ time.
Liberal Democrat group leader David Howarth said that the authority should encourage “as many people as possible” to use the route, which he told the meeting was already popular in its current form.
However, he called for measures to keep it both tidy and safe - and said he would be seeking funding from the local community hub to purchase lifebelts for the route and asked for bins also to be included along the path. Council leader Paul Foster confirmed that bins were already part of the plans.
Work on the Penwortham Loop is expected to take up to ten weeks, with an opening pencilled in for July. It will also include new signs and upgraded entrances to the loop from existing adjacent paths.
The project is part of South Ribble’s wider £1.4m green links strategy to create better cycling and walking networks across the borough over a four-year period from 2019. It is from that budget that the additional £64,000 cost of the Penwortham Loop will be funded.