Criticism of road closure on South Ribble and Chorley border to encourage cycling

The manager of Cuerden Valley Park is warning that road closures designed to encourage cycling and walking in the area could risk the recovery of the popular café which helps fund the upkeep of the site.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 6:22 pm
Updated Monday, 13th July 2020, 8:03 pm
Simon Thorpe at one of the road closures close to Cuerden Valley Park (image: Neil Cross)

The eatery reopened last week for the first time since lockdown, but just seven days later, the main routes which lead to the Berkeley Drive attraction have been temporarily shut.

Closures have been introduced at several points on Shady Lane and Nell Lane as part of plans to make some roads a more appealing option for cyclists and pedestrians, while public transport is being discouraged during the ongoing pandemic.

However, park boss Simon Thorpe says that the move could ultimately jeopardise the jobs of the 19 full and part-time café staff who have only just returned to work. The outlet is currently offering takeaways, but hopes to return to the more traditional service for which it is famed in the near future.

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Shady Lane has temporarily been shut off

“Trade has picked up over the last week as more people have discovered that we have reopened,” Simon explained.

“But I’m really concerned about the effect of these closures – even some of the staff couldn’t find their way into work this morning, so I don’t know how visitors will cope.

“I’m worried that people will just see the signs and turn around and go somewhere else. We absolutely rely on car parking income to keep the park open – if people don’t come and pay to visit the café and the park itself, then we will be in big trouble.

“Nobody is denying that traffic does go down these roads quite fast and comes into conflict with pedestrians and cyclists – but it would have been better to reduce the speed limit rather than close them altogether.”

Simon is appealing to highways bosses to install additional signs at the point of the closures explaining that the park is still open for business. He has calculated that the diversion route – via Wigan Road and Lancaster Lane – will take around seven minutes to travel.

The borough and county councillors for the area are also questioning the wisdom of the decision to block off the two minor roads.

“I fully support the initiative and it’s a very good environmental policy to get people to move out of their cars and either cycle or walk – but this is in the wrong place,” explains Chorley councillor Mark Clifford, the authority’s champion for the environment.

He also said that the area was already served by part of the national cycling network, making the current changes unnecessary.

Clayton with Whittle county councillor Mark Perks said he had been contacted by residents concerned about the potential disruption.

“I would have thought that there would have been better schemes in areas of denser population where such closures would have made more sense to encourage cycling and walking.

“They have not consulted anybody about it either, Cllr Perks added.

Lancashire County Council said in a letter to residents last week that it had been unable to consult in the usual way about its plans, because of the need to act quickly in response to the lifting of lockdown measures.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “The suggestion to look at making Shady Lane a quieter route for cyclists was made in response to our call for proposals from members of the public which were then considered by officers.

“The temporary closure aims to make it a more attractive route for cyclists with a focus towards those who travel regularly through this area such as for work, and are more likely to choose an on-road route to save time.

“We will review the signage to make clear to drivers approaching from the north that Cuerden Park remains open and monitor the scheme to ensure it is achieving the intended active travel benefits.”

Speaking about the overarching cycling and walking schemes, cabinet member for highways, Keith Iddon, added: “”Our aim is to create a network of better links for cyclists on routes into town and city centres to encourage people to use their bikes for regular journeys, such as getting to work.

“While social distancing restrictions have eased somewhat, we expect them to affect the way people can use public transport for some time to come, with the risk that this could lead to an increase in people driving and cause more congestion on the roads.

“If creating these quieter routes, and pop-up cycle lanes, make some people feel more able to cycle instead of driving or using public transport for regular journeys, they will have been worthwhile.

“At the same time they are a temporary measure as part of our response to the coronavirus crisis, and we will keep them under review.”