Questions over Stocksbridge walking trails project cutback
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The issue was raised during a meeting of Sheffield City Council’s finance committee on Monday (October 16). The project is part of a larger regeneration plan for the town being created by the Stocksbridge Town Deal Board, supported by the city council, using £24.1m of government ‘levelling up’ funding.
That seeks to deliver a revamp of Stocksbridge town centre, a new library and community hub, improvements to sports facilities, Oxley Park and the natural environment, plus improved bus services, better links to Fox Valley shopping centre and a post-16 education hub at Stocksbridge High School.
The questions came up during an update on capital spending that included spending £31.7k of the funding on the feasibility of providing road access to off-road leisure trails.
The report said: “Previous feasibility works had reviewed potential improvements to the Upper Don Trail, which due to scope and cost have not been able to be pursued.
“Work will now be focussed on smaller scale interventions to try and deliver the most cost-effective proposal that links Stocksbridge and Underbank reservoir where Yorkshire Water are delivering significant investment into off-road leisure trails.”
Coun Marieanne Elliot said: “It is really disappointing that the original project has been abandoned and some stakeholders are understandably bitter and disappointed by that, such as the Upper Don Trail Trust. What are the implications for external funding set aside?”
Finance manager Damian Watkinson said that the decision had been made by the towns board and the council is only involved in helping to deliver aspects of the projects agreed.
Coun Toby Mallinson said that the Upper Don Trail Trust has issued a statement saying that it isn’t being included in consultations, which he said was quite worrying.
In its statement the trust said it has seen advertisements for a drop-in consultation event on developments around Underbank Reservoir, being held at Smithy Moor community centre on Cross Lane between 3pm and 7pm on Thursday, October 19.
It added: “UDTT remain in the dark about the board’s reasons for abandoning the original project, which would also have provided walking, riding and cycling access between Stocksbridge and the Ewden valley via a new section of the Upper Don Trail.
“This is despite our repeated requests for information and meaningful consultation about their decision, and how we might find a consensual way forward.
“Our concerns are shared by local businesses and residents, by Stocksbridge Town Council, and by Sheffield City Council’s North Local Area Committee.
“The Upper Don Trail Trust have been active “stakeholders” in the trails project since its inception. As such, we are extremely disappointed that we and other stakeholders have not received any direct notification of the drop-in event, or been invited to participate in it.”
Other spending agreed at the committee as part of the project includes grants of £100k to Stocksbridge Rugby Club and £120k to Stocksbridge Football Club to improve playing surfaces, changing areas and accessibility.
At Oxley Park, the skate park will be refurbished as an All Wheels Park, with the help of £9,000 from the park friends group. Access to the park and New Hall Woods will be improved, including a cafe area, signage and landscaping.