Padiham Greenway bid to cross historic Read viaduct

Martholme Viaduct which could form part of the Padiham Greenway.
Martholme Viaduct which could form part of the Padiham Greenway.
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Campaigners hoping to reignite plans to extend the Padiham Greenway path across a historic viaduct near Read are facing an uphill battle.

Supporters of the ambitious scheme are pushing for an 800m section of former railway track near the Martholme Viaduct to be opened up as a public footpath.

A move to create a path through the private land would mean the popular Greenway could finally be connected up to Great Harwood, the River Calder and Ribble Valley.

But the landowners, who run the Heywood Bridge Caravan Park at the beauty spot, fear their business could be badly affected by opening the stretch up to the public.

Richard Hanson, who operates the family-run holiday business which began in the 1950s, said: “It has been going on for a number of years. But we have a business to run.

“We do not want it because we cannot see how it will improve our situation or for our customers.

“We think the potential risks and bad points far outweigh the benefits for our customers.

“I can understand there would be certain benefits for walkers but I would challenge anybody with a nice garden, which they have spent a lot of money on, to let everyone walk through and all the possible problems that would come of that.”

But councils in Padiham, Hyndburn and Read have backed the plans which they say would link up the Lancashire Cycleway and create easier cycle access from Blackburn to industrial parks in Simonstone, Altham, Padiham and Burnley.

Ramblers groups believe it would be a big boost to local tourism if the vision became a reality.

Speaking at Padiham Town Council, Coun. Andy Tatchell said: “The Padiham Greenway is one of the best things to happen to the town in the last 20 years. Now it is a chance to move the Greenway into other areas.”

Coun. John Harbour added: “We really need to keep it going and encourage the county council to keep it going.

“I think it would be a massive benefit to the land owner. With people holidaying on the site who would be able to jump on their bikes and go for a ride would be an excellent opportunity for him.

“It seems a win-win for the people of Padiham and the person who owns the land.”

But landowner Richard Hanson has maintained his objections to the long-running saga.

He explained the former track, which has been private land since the family bought it in the 1970s, has attracted anti-social behaviour in the past including people shooting, throwing stones, riding motorbikes and even savaging deer with their dogs.

Mr Hanson fears the secluded holiday park could suffer further problems if a public path was created.

He said: “For more than 20 years the selling point is that it is a private and secluded site.

“Our customers want security, privacy and they want to feel safe, enjoy the peace and tranquillity and come here to relax.

“We have to have a strong consideration for people who have bought their caravans here and what they want.

He added: “We have had people say they would sell up if it was opened up.”