Four English National Parks - the Peak District, New Forest, South Downs and Dartmoor - are to share £17M of government and local funding as part of a wider scheme to improve facilities for cycling. The money will fund around 40 miles of new trails in the Peak alone.
The Peak District National Park will get a £7.5million boost to enhance and extend the cycle-trail network, integrating it in places with existing public transport links to help put a lot more of the park within easy reach of two-wheeled visitors.
According to the Park Authority the Pedal Peak District project will benefit the tourist economy by putting an estimated 3.5million people within reach of the Peak District National Park cycle network - either directly by bike in less than an hour or following a short train ride. The aim is to make the park more accessible on two wheels for people living in surrounding cities like Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Nottingham.
The Department for Transport announced it would put £5million into the project, to be supplemented by £2.5million from the partners involved: Derbyshire County Council, the Peak District National Park Authority, Staffordshire County Council, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and Sheffield City Council.
The money is part of an England-wide cycling spending package recently announced by the Government (they get to announce it, though not all the money comes from central coffers). There'll be £77m of Government money for schemes in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich, plus £17m to be shared by the New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor national parks. With match funding contributions from local government the total pot for cycling in England is £148m over the next two years. However some have questioned how much of this is really new money, and critics have pointed out that on taking office the present government actually scrapped a £60million annual budget to support cycling.
In the Peak district four new trails are proposed as part of the project:
- White Peak Loop - 11 miles - would link the High Peak Trail and Monsal Trail with two new sections - one between Matlock and Bakewell and another between Buxton and Hurdlow. Visitors from Nottingham and Derby could reach the loop by train to Matlock. And its link to Buxton train station would put it in easy reach of people living in north Derbyshire and Manchester.
- Little Don Link - 12 miles - would run from Beeley Wood in Sheffield to Winscar Reservoir near Penistone, linking with the Trans Pennine Trail through the Peak District. The route would cross and run parallel to part of the route for the 2014 Tour de France and will help provide what the bureaucrats are calling a 'permanent legacy' from the event. Material from recycled tyres would be used to build the new cycle path, which would follow the route of a disused railway line skirting Langsett and Underbank reservoirs.
- Staffordshire Moorlands Link - 14 miles - a new trail to link The Roaches and Stockton Brook, linking with an existing route into Stoke-on-Trent. The section between Stockton Brook and Cheddleton would follow the Caldon Brook towpath. Another section would be built between Cheddleton and Waterhouses, linking with the existing Manifold Trail into the National Park. The Moorlands Connect demand-responsive bus service operates in this area providing access to and from Stoke and Staffordshire Moorlands.
- Little John Route and Hope Valley Link - 3 miles - would provide an off-road route between Bamford and Hathersage, bridging the gap between existing cycle routes into Sheffield and Manchester, connecting to the Little John Route between the two cities.
Tony Favell, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, said:
'This is wonderful and exciting news for the Peak District. It is great for family cycling and for walkers too.'
'It gives road cyclists alternative routes and eases traffic congestion. It will boost healthy living for people in the big cities of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Stoke and at the same time benefit national park residents and rural businesses.'
'There is a huge amount of work involved in opening up these four cycle-ways and there will be public consultation on the precise routes to be taken, but investing in traffic-free trails is a win, win situation for everyone and the environment.'
Councillor Joan Dixon, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs, Economy and Transport, added:
'Boosting our local economy is at the top of our agenda so anything we can do to improve tourism and open up our county’s beautiful countryside to attract new visitors is most welcome. We will consult fully with local people on each of the routes and we will need to gain planning permission before any work can start.'
This is the second phase of the Pedal Peak District project. Phase one to extend and enhance the Monsal Trail was carried out last year by the National Park Authority. The project involved opening up disused railway tunnels along the Midland Railway Line which closed in 1968.
Planning applications for the four new Peak District cycle routes are expected to be submitted over the next year and the routes are expected to be completed by 2016.