End of Gorleston cyclepath saga?

A FOOTPATH saga took take a fresh twist, with Norfolk County Council deciding to upgrade even more of the controverisal stretch.

Having sparked a storm with its �95,000 scheme for what supporters agree are improvements to Warren Road footpath linking Hopton and Gorleston, the county council is risking further wrath by adding a final 30m section at the Hopton end, bringing the adopted stretch to almost 1km.

Earlier attempts in May to get on with the work resulted in a bitter stand-off with campaigners opposed to the works blockading the southern end close to Cliff Cottages, which officials now propose to include in the scheme.

The revised plans for the pedestrian and cycle link were published on Friday as letters drop on local doormats.

A council spokesman said the authority was making a fresh attempt to improve the route because, although there had been stubborn opposition, there was also widespread support, with backing from the borough council, Hopton Parish Council, the Cycle Forum and some Warren Road residents.

The letter delivered on Friday to local residents says: “Norfolk County Council is well aware of the opposition in some quarters to any improvement of Warren Road. There has been concern that the county council’s proposal will open up Warren Road to general traffic and development. This is not the case. The county council’s only interest is to improve a safe and pleasant link between Hopton and Gorleston for cyclists and walkers.”

The council insists that the improvement for cyclists and walkers will not “urbanise” the rural stretch of Warren Road. The surface will be a fine gravel, not concrete or asphalt, and there is no question of access to general traffic being allowed.

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Local county councillors Bertie Collins and Gerry Cook say the scheme will provide a vital link along an attractive route between the communities they represent, bringing benefits to visitors and the wider community especiallly pupils cycling to local schools.

The council believes that by including the 30m stretch of Warren Road close to Cliff Cottages it will avoid the risk of access being blocked, and will be able to carry out improvements, including better drainage, that will benefit local residents - and at no cost to them.

Work will start as soon as possible after the formal procedures have been completed. The council is seeking a grant from Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, towards the cost of the scheme.

No works are to be carried out on the northern residential section of Warren Road, which will not be adopted. However the county council has offered a one-off payment of �5,000 to the residents’ association in recognition that increased public use could add to maintenance costs.

John Birchall, for the county council, said: “It has been a saga. There have been lots of concerns raised but fundamentally some people do not want it changed because they think its a nice route. But there is another point of view that says we could make it a bit better.”