Plans to re-route the Millennium Path into Lancaster via a busy road while new flood defences are being built have been described as a “shambles”.
Lancaster City Council has submitted plans to build a two mile flood wall along the river Lune between the Bay Gateway Bridge and Skerton Bridge to protect businesses in Caton Road from flooding.
The plans include the closure of the Millennium Path, a multi use path which runs alongside the river, while the new wall is built.
If planning permission is granted, work could start in January 2019.
A proposed diversion would take commuters, cyclists, school children and others along Caton Road - but many people and organisations have said is too dangerous.
Lancaster Civic Society has questioned why it is “absolutely necessary” for the existing route to be completely closed while construction work takes place, while Lancaster Ramblers Association said the proposed works were “largely to the benefit of adjacent landowners” and little benefit to the public realm was proposed.
Many Caton Road businesses flooded during Storm Desmond in December 2015, resulting in millions of pounds worth of damage.
One business, Standfast and Barracks, constructed its own flood defence wall, while others have decided to move to other premises due to the risk of future flooding.
Matt Hodges, from Right To Ride Cycling UK said: “Whoever drew these plans has no understanding of what they have proposed. It is a complete shambles.
Additionally even on the parts of Caton Road which have a shared path that path is very poor and unsuitable for the traffic from the Lune Millennium Path.
Parts of it are too narrow to carry two way cycle and pedestrian traffic safely.
“This is not a safe alternative – It is a fig-leaf to justify kicking cyclists and pedestrians off the Lune Millennium Path.”
Mr Hodges says it is not necessary to use the cycle track to construct the wall and that access for 90 per cent of its length could be accessed from the business premises that it is set to benefit.
Lancashire County Council’s public rights of way officer said that the suggested alternative route during the temporary closure has a number of safety implications in that the route concerned has insufficient width to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
A preferred option would be to stagger the closure as and when works have been completed so that there is minimal disruption to Rights of Way users and an alternative route would have a lower impact on users over a lesser period of time.
Phil Barrett, director of community services at Lancashire County Council has urged the city council to carry out a “vulnerable road users audit” to assess the risks of the proposed diversion.
He added: “Without submission of the audit - identifying potential safety issues, as well as suggested ways in which they could be removed or improved, Lancashire County Council (Area East) highway & traffic management team would be unwilling to approve the creation of a temporary shared use footway.”
There has also been concern from residents in Halton.
Rebecca Stones, of Forgebank Walk said: “I am concerned for myself, my family and other users of the bike path between Halton and Lancaster.
“The temporary cycle route will be much more dangerous to cycle on for me, my son aged 4 on his own bike and my baby in a bike trailer or bike seat, and for others especially those who bike with children.
“The new long term path planned will be more difficult (due to the up and down slopes) for people like myself cycling with a heavy bike trailer full of baby/child and weekly food shopping from Sainsbury’s and also less pleasant to cycle on.
“Both the temporary and long term plans may affect visitor numbers as I see a lot of long distance cyclists using this route especially in the summer.”
Rachel Donald said: “Please please do not close the cycle path from Halton to Lancaster as this is my daughter’s route to school. I would not feel happy about her cycling on the roads particularly when it gets dark and wintery. Surely the cycle path can still be in use when works are being carried out?”
See the full planning application and responses HERE