Consultation on use and surfacing of the routes
During the summer of 2016 a consultation exercise took place with local communities on how they used the route, what improvements they would like to see take place as part of the project and what surfacing should be used on narrow sections of the route. Questionnaires were delivered to over 10,000 properties living within 1km of some of the narrow sections of the route, as well as the questionnaire being made available on-line. Two drop-in consultation events were also held in May at Helmshore Textile Museum and Futures Park, Bacup where people could look at plans of the routes and discuss the proposals with the project team.
There was a very good response to the consultation with over 1,000 completed questionnaires returned. This has provided the project team with some really useful information about how people use the route, as well as some great ideas for improvements that can potentially be made.
At the drop-in consultation events Huckleberry Films invited local people to sit in the 'Wayfinders Throne' and give their views on the project. A short documentary of the interviews that took place is available Mid Pennine Arts | Talking Greenways Film
Based on the results of the consultation exercise and the surface options that were presented, tarmac came out as being the surface that most users deemed suitable. However, concerns were expressed that using tarmac particularly on slopes could be slippery for some users including horse riders and walkers, especially during the winter months.
Within the responses to the consultation, another material – 'flexible paving' - was suggested as a suitable alternative surface for narrow sections of the route. Flexible paving is a mix of aggregate and recycled tyres which is bonded together by polyurethane. It is porous and as a result not as susceptible to frost damage, it drains naturally and because of the rubber content it is softer to use than other surfaces.
As a result of the feedback received and after further investigations regarding the suitability and cost of the material have taken place, it is now proposed to use flexible paving on approximately 3.5km of the route where there is not enough width to provide a 3m wide tarmac surface alongside a softer verge.
The results of the consultation were presented in a report to the cabinet member for highways and transport on the 12 December 2016 and a press release was issued to accompany the decision to use flexible paving material on some sections.
Work will begin in September 2017 on laying flexible paving on some sections of the Valley of Stone route.