Bike loop ‘threat’ to trains and rare wildlife

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Proposals to build a cycle loop around the Peaks have been criticised for threatening rare animal habitats, as well as long-running plans to reopen a disused railway.

Rowsley Parish Council claim the Pedal Peak project would threaten the habitats of bats and otters in woodland surrounding the village.

Councillors also fear that Peak Rail’s long-standing ambition to reopen the railway north of Rowsley could be scuppered by the project.

A spokesperson for the parish council said: “Surveys which Derbyshire County Council have had commissioned show that animal habitat’s would be threatened by this project. This is clearly not acceptable.”

The spokesperson added that plans for bridges in the project – which was supposed to accommodate Peak Rail’s reopening ambition – were only wide enough for cyclists, and would not fit a railway line.

“The parish council observes that the initial bridge designs would not be able to accommodate Peak Rail’s plans, as they are not wide enough,” the spokesperson said.

“We are very much in favour of Peak Rail’s plans and believe it is important that it’s expansion plans are accommodated.”

The cycle loop is a £7.5m project to create four new routes through the Peak District National Park and surrounding urban areas.

The project was awarded £5m from the Government’s National Park Cycling Ambition Fund managed by the Department for Transport in August 2013.

The five authorities involved in the bid are also putting in £2.5m. Theses authorities are: Derbyshire County Council; Peak District National Park Authority; Staffordshire County Council; Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council; and Sheffield City Council.

It is hoped the project will put 3.5m people in reach of the cycle network – providing a “sustainable boost to tourism and the rural economy”.

But with a complex web of landowners and councils to please, plans to start work earlier this year have been delayed.

Rowsley Parish Council submitted their latest comments on the project recently, and this week Claire O’Reilly, senior project officer for Pedal Peak, sent a response.

Ms O’Reilly said: “This application [affecting woodland around Rowsley] was submitted recently and I understand that the parish council have provided some comments.

“We are however in the process of reviewing the information that was enclosed with this particular application because we feel that it does not provide sufficiently clear information about the route and the impact on the local ecology or the relationship with the Peak Rail plans.

“We are in discussion with the planning department about how best to rectify this.”

She added that the county council has only looked at “potential designs” for the proposed bridges over Park Lane, Church Lane and the A6.

Ms O’Reilly said: “We are still committed to not doing anything that would prevent Peak Rail from achieving their aspirations to open the railway through to Bakewell, or beyond.

“A lightweight bridge and trail along the railway route, although not actively facilitating the railway, in our opinion does not prevent any future expansion of the railway and indeed the trail development will serve to preserve the route as a transport corridor.

The current funding for the project needs to be spent by March 2016.