Make or break meeting for Radford Semele ramp - The Leamington Observer

Make or break meeting for Radford Semele ramp

Leamington Editorial 27th Mar, 2024   0

A MAKE-or-break meeting will decide the fate of an eight-year long community initiative to connect Radford Semele to the countryside.

The issue surrounds access to the Grand Union Canal towpath which runs past the village. While some fit and healthy walkers have made use of steep, treacherous unofficial entry points, access has been barred for cyclists, child buggies, wheelchairs and mobility vehicles.

The only official route is down the narrow Offchurch Lane with no footpath and a 50mph limit. Neither option is safe for children, the elderly or those with mobility issues, so people have to make a two mile drive to reach the nearby Greenway path and cycleway,

In 2016, Dave Steele of Friends of Radford’s Green Environment (FoRGE) negotiated the purchase of a piece of land by the Canal and River Trust (CRT) for the construction of an access ramp accessible for all from the A425 footpath at the western edge of the village.

This would enable recreational access to nearby green spaces including Sustrans National Cycle Route 41 as well as providing a carbon-free route to work in nearby Leamington.

Planning permission was finally granted this year after an unprecedented level of supportive comments from villagers who have also raised £1,500 towards a FoRGE appeal for the scheme.

However, despite eight years of patient campaigning, and having the backing of Radford Semele Parish Council in the form of £41,000 funding from local developments, the project is yet to materialise.

During this time the village population has increased by 25 per cent and new residents are flabbergasted that they cannot access the countryside via the canal.

Several funding bids have fallen through, but an opportunity has opened which involves Sustrans re-routing the cycle route from the Newbold Comyn Radford Road car park along the A425 footpath re-joining the towpath via the proposed new ramp.

This has the support of CRT, Sustrans, Warwickshire County Council and Active Travel England. However, since the land purchase, width and slope requirements for mobility vehicle ramps have changed meaning the area of land is now too small. An exception can be made to allow this project to go ahead but this has to be approved at a meeting between representatives of CRT, Sustrans, Active Travel England and WCC later this month.

Dave Steele of FoRGE is seeking letters of endorsement from MPs and council leaders, some of which have already arrived.

He said: “It is a paradox that this well-intentioned legislation, designed to improve access for mobility users, could have the opposite affect by blocking this long awaited citizen-led scheme, denying access not only for those it is designed to help but also for everyone else.

But FoRGE is cautiously optimistic that common sense will prevail and the deadlock can be broken to allow this crucial project to go finally ahead.”

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