THE official opening of a pathway which makes it safer and easier to travel between Sleaford and Leasingham takes place this weekend.
With highways works close to completion to finish off the first phase of the Connect 2 Leasingham to Sleaford Link, the town and village communities are invited to join in the celebrations from 10am to noon.
A procession of walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and others who will benefit from the delivery of a safe, surfaced level traffic-free path bridging the A17 will journey along the route from Carre’s Grammar School – leaving at 10am – through to Leasingham Primary School.
People are also invited to head south from Leasingham along the path to join the official opening on the bridge at around 10.30am.
A spokesman said: “Given the project’s express purpose is the creation of an easy-use pathway for all cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users and pushchairs to cross the A17 safely, we encourage all participants to walk or cycle.”
The opening of the bridge will mark completion of a five year community-led project involving residents, town, parish, district and county councils, and the sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
There is an aspiration to improve the route further by adding a dedicated bridge across the railway at Galley Hill under a second phase.
Riders of vintage cycles, the Sleaford Concert Band, police cyclists, schoolchildren, local MP Stephen Phillips and local Olympic and Paralympic torchbearers are among those expected to add to the festivities.
The official opening will be carried out by Leasingham’s Graham Arnold and Sleaford’s Debbie Scott who have championed the route and also Leasingham schoolboy Oliver Harding who is one of the three cyclists featured on the route’s sculptural bench.
Graham said: “After many years of campaigning it is nice to see our safe route across the A17 open.
“I hope that it will continue to be well-used as it really is an easier, safer and potentially life-saving alternative to negotiating the busy dual-carriageway close to the roundabout. “
Debbie added: “Whether it’s for getting to work, to school, to town or just for the pure pleasure of being out in the fresh air, this route provides a safe way of walking and cycling between Leasingham and Sleaford.”
The pair sat on the community group chaired by NKDC Deputy Leader Cllr Mike Gallagher which has steered the delivery of the project, complete with land acquisition, refurbishment of a bridge crossing, installation of solar lights and signage and highway improvements.
Councillor Mike Gallagher, who has executive oversight of transport initiatives at NKDC, said: “This route is undoubtedly the safest and easiest option for walking and cycling to avoid the dangers and hassles they would otherwise face attempting to cross at the A17 roundabout and I can’t stress enough how we hope people will use it.”
In addition to Sustrans’ contributions from National Lottery and Government grants, finance for the route was provided by partners including NKDC and Lincolnshire County Council and its delivery has been directed by a local steering group including schools, parish and town councils. The project was instigated by residents of Leasingham in response to dangers in crossing the A17.
Sustrans local representative Nicola Jones said: “We are delighted to have helped to achieve this safe route which is perfect for the typical everyday journeys we all make. We hope that the opening will inspire people to use the route, walking and cycling more in Sleaford and Leasingham and between the two.”
The official opening takes place on Saturday, September 22.