In my presentation to Clubnight last month I made reference to the proposals under the City Connect project for infrastructure improvements here in Calderdale. The towpath section between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden is now the subject of consultation events as follows:-
Wednesday 30 November – Hebden Bridge Trades Club;
Thursday 1st December – Happy Days Cycles, Sowerby Bridge;
Friday 2nd December – Todmorden Town Hall.
All the events are between 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm.
I am a member of the City Connect Advisory Group and I have followed with interest the development of these proposals. I had hoped that these consultations would have been delayed pending resolution of concerns I and others have expressed about the proposals, but there we are. My concerns are as follows:-
- The width of the route. The Canal and River Trust, who are responsible for the project, are working to a default width of 1.2 metres. This is inadequate. There are plenty of places where the width could easily be 2 metres or even more, but this has not been accepted;
- The surface of the route. Ideally we would want a tarmac surface as presently exists along the section of towpath between Brighouse and Copley but in order to keep costs down a different, in my view inferior, surface is proposed;
- I am personally unhappy about the proposal to upgrade the route between Luddendenfoot and Hebden Bridge. The proposal to upgrade the towpath between these two locations is in my view an unnecessary duplication of the existing (Sustrans) NCN which already has some lengthy tarmac sections. I would prefer that money is spent on upgrading this existing section than on the towpath.
- The proposals for the “washwalls” (the cobbled sections on the existing towpath that allow water to drain from the canal to the river, and which are difficult for cyclists to negotiate), are not adequate.
Having said all that, these concerns pale into insignificance in relation to my primary concern, which relates to Cooper Bridge. When the towpath proposals for Calderdale were first put forward at the beginning of 2015, I argued that it was imperative to include the section between Brighouse and Cooper Bridge in order to complete the missing link between the Calderdale and Kirklees Greenways. This argument was accepted, Cooper Bridge was included in the project and funding provided to achieve this long overdue aspiration.
Since that time (and I will not bore you with the details) it has been a major job for me to keep Cooper Bridge alive. The latest snag has been the refusal of the Canal and River Trust to support the making of the Bridleway Creation Order that is necessary to achieve the route, on the ground that CRT “do not want to upset” the landowner across whose land the route would continue from the towpath to the A62.
The position I have taken, and one that gives me no pleasure, is that I am opposed to any moneys being given to the Canal and River Trust e.g for the upgrades that are the subject of this consultation, as long as they maintain their current position in relation to Cooper Bridge. Instead I have argued that the money (believed to be around four million pounds), would be better spent on the following:-
- Upgrading the existing NCN route between Luddendenfoot and Hebden Bridge;
- Creating a safe, signed on road route through Sowerby Bridge;
- Creating a safe, signed on road route across the new Elland Bridge to connect the two existing towpaths;
- Creating a segregated cycle route into Brighouse from the east emerging at Sainsburys supermarket.
Because this is a view of last resort, and one I am extremely annoyed to have had to take, I have recently written to Calderdale Cycling Champion Councillor Dot Foster to ask if she will call a meeting of the Calderdale Cycle Forum so the matter can be discussed there. I am awaiting a response to this request. I am really disappointed that we have got to this stage, but I believe that Cooper Bridge is too important an issue to be lost because of Canal and River Trust intransigence.
I would encourage Members to attend the consultation events; a link to the City Connect website can be found here-