A PETITION to reopen a popular walking spot has been launched.

The Grade II listed Martholme Viaduct lies between Great Harwood and Read, but has been closed since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, despite a long-running campaign to see an 800 metre-long route reopened to the public.

Now calls have been made for the county council to throw its weight behind the campaign to reopen the 19th century viaduct, which was built to carry the Great Harwood Loop of the East Lancashire line over the River Calder, and a nearby footpath. More than 130 people have signed the online petition, which has a target of 1,000 signatures by the end of June.

The petition is also aimed at Sustrans, a charity aimed at enabling people to choose healthier, cleaner, and cheaper journeys, which owns the viaduct.

Barbara Sharples, from the Great Harwood Prospects Panel, said: “The opening of this footpath would join up the Hyndburn and Padiham Greenways and enable safer circular walking and cycling routes.”

“The viaduct has been locked again, but there’s no point in having the viaduct open if all you can do is walk up and down it.”

The footpath is believed to be owned by landowners who run the Heywood Bridge Caravan Park nearby. No-one could be reached for comment yesterday.

A spokesman for Sustrans said: “We have no objections in principle to the viaduct being open to the public. We are happy to talk to people about it being open, albeit it being a closed route.”

In a letter to the county council, Read Parish Council stated: “This stretch of disused railway had been used for almost 40 years by local walkers and cyclists as a link across the River Calder and, during this time, Bridge Hey Wood caravan site evolved from a small group of riverside weekend cabins to the 100-plus unit caravan site which it has now become.

“Despite an offer to provide a security fence and gate, the landowner consistently refused requests to allow access, even on a trial basis. At present pedestrians wishing to walk from Great Harwood to Read have either to cross the busy A680 twice, or negotiate a footway less than 0.5 metres wide across Cock Bridge.”

To inspect the petition, visit www.tinyurl.com/pwstwd3