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18 January 2011, 10:48 | Updated: 18 January 2011, 10:52
Plans to create a new walking and cycle route linking Hurn and Bournemouth have been put on indefinite hold.
Dorset County Council, Bournemouth Borough Council and sustainable transport charity Sustrans have been working together with a number of local groups to create a new route for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders between Hurn Forest and Throop.
Part of Sustrans national Connect2 programme, the project was aimed at helping local people and visitors make everyday journeys in ways that are beneficial to their health and the environment.
However, due to reductions in Government funding and a range of ongoing difficulties, the partners have reluctantly agreed to withdraw the scheme from the Connect2 programme.
Dorset County Council, which has seen its Government grant settlement for 2011/12 reduced by 23 per cent, has decided that it cannot go ahead with part-funding the Hurn scheme at the current time.
A number of complex technical and landownership issues were proving increasingly difficult to resolve by the planned completion date of March 2013. The project had previously received a number of local objections before being given the go ahead by Dorset County Council's Cabinet in July 2009.
In October 2009, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging £300,000 from Sustrans Connect2 lottery award towards the project, which had an estimated cost of £625,000.
The centrepiece of the new route was to be reinstating the historical Pig Shoot crossing by constructing a new bridge over the River Stour at Throop.
A wider network of traffic-free paths and quiet roads was to link communities on both sides of the river to the airport, industrial estates and open access forestry land in the north together with improved access into Bournemouth town centre.
Peter Finney, Dorset County Council Cabinet member for Transport, said:
"It is disappointing that we are unable to progress this worthwhile project in the foreseeable future. A lot of people, many of them volunteers, have put a lot of effort into promoting this project and I would like to acknowledge their unfaltering resolve. I would hope that in more prosperous times there will be an opportunity to revisit the project."
Councillor Michael Filer, Bournemouth Borough Council Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, said:
"We are extremely disappointed with how this project has fallen through. A lot of dedication and hard work, especially from ward councillors and the local community have driven the funding behind this project. I hope that when funds are available that we will proceed with the project."
Adrian Roper, Sustrans South West Regional Director, said:
"We are obviously disappointed that Dorset County Council doesn't feel it can take the Bournemouth Connect2 project forward at this time. Investing in walking and cycling routes provides excellent value for money, not just improving transport options, but also enabling people to live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
"We are pleased, however, that the council would still like to deliver this project in the future. We will be happy to work with both councils in the future to deliver what will be a valuable link, enabling staff working at the aviation parks to cycle to and from work and residents in Parley and Ferndown to get into Bournemouth, with easy access to Castlepoint, avoiding the busy Christchurch Road."