A NEW cycle route is set to attract thousands of new visitors to the South Downs.
The 2.5-mile route, which links Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Petersfield train station, was tested by cyclists on Friday.
Cllr Andrew Gibson, executive member for culture, recreation and countryside at Hampshire County Council, says that the route is a ‘great example of partners working together’.
He said: ‘This will help attract thousands of visitors to Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which is already very popular among cyclists with trails for both the beginner and the keen cyclist.
‘As a cyclist myself, I’m looking forward to riding this new route in this beautiful part of the country.’
The council launched the route in line with its cycling strategy to encourage funding for cycling investments, and promote cycling as a means of transport and recreation.
The route was originally backed by 4,000 people in a petition by Cycling UK. This popularity inspired a £3.81m Cycle Ambition Grant to South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
Paul Tuohy, chief exec of Cycling UK, said: ‘It really demonstrates what local authorities and national parks can do to help make cycling and walking a normal activity.’
‘We hope the rest of the country will follow in their example by creating similar high quality space for cycling.’
Allison Thorpe, who leads on access and recreation for SDNPA, said: ‘It’s always exciting to see our vision of easy-to-use cycle routes – connecting people in towns and cities with the National Park’s spectacular landscapes – becoming reality.’
SDNPA pledged £865,000 towards the route, alongside £300,000 from Enterprise M3 LEP, and £220,000 from East Hampshire District Council.
EHDC’s portfolio holder for customer service Cllr Julie Butler praised the route as a surefire way to encourage both residents and visitors to get out and about in the county’s rural areas.
She said: ‘This important route will be of great benefit to the local community, helping to link residential areas with the local countryside as part of the wider walking and cycling network in East Hampshire.’