County councillors meet next week to discuss plans for a permanent link between the north and south sections of Watermead Country Parks.
Cabinet members will be asked to support a joint initiative with Leicester City Council to build a footbridge and cycleway across the River Soar near Thurmaston.
The footbridge project is seen as the next significant step-forward in the councils’ quest to greater connect the south section at Rushey Mead – which is managed by the city council – and the north section at Wanlip Road, Syston, which is managed by the county council.
The report, being discussed by Cabinet on Friday, 23rd November, proposes that the county council will provide funding of £750,000, with a decision due to be taken by the City Mayor and executive on the same day regarding the city council’s proposed contribution of £750,000.
We want the park to be better connected as well as increasing people’s levels of physical activity which is a major public health priority for both authorities. We want to encourage people to either walk or cycle in our country parks.Person:County council leader Nick Rushton
“We’re facing pressure on our budgets, but we have to promote the economic benefits of both the county and city. The footbridge will provide that physical link between the two sites and raise its profile to more people.
Improving cycling and footpath access along the river and canal corridor between the city centre and Birstall, Thurmaston and Syston will also encourage more sustainable transport, a key component of the county council’s environment strategy.
The report also outlines that City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, has agreed that a budget of £500,000 could also be made available from the River Soar /Grand Union Canal Environment and Access programme, a wider programme of work being delivered by the city council with the Environment Agency (EA) and the Canal and River Trust funded through the Local Growth Fund.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “By working with colleagues in the county, we have an opportunity to make some very significant improvements to this shared and much-loved country park.
“The new bridge would help stitch together the north and south areas of this wonderful country park, which many people still don’t realise are connected. Taken together, it really does make Watermead a fantastic destination and we want to ensure that we making the most of this incredible asset.
“It’s the latest proposal in an ongoing and ambitious programme of work with the Environment Agency and Canal and River Trust which is helping make the city’s riverside and waterways more attractive – and accessible – to as broad a range of visitors as possible.”
Both councils have already held provisional discussions about the site with a private landowner who has indicated broad agreement with the proposal.
Discussions will also continue with the Environmental Agency and the Canal and River Trust. The development work, should the proposals be approved, will also include a full ecological study of the proposed site and the appointment of a contractor.
If approved, it is expected that construction will be completed by the summer of 2020.
Earlier this year, the joint partnership was also firmly emphasised with the display of more than 50 new signs, including interpretation boards, now dotted around the two sites.
Around 245,000 people have visited the two sites since April this year.
The cabinet meets at 2pm next Friday (23 November) - watch the meeting online at: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/webcast