A KEY section of 14 miles of a new cycling network across Blackburn, Hyndburn and Rossendale is open for walkers, bike and horse riders.

Lancashire County Council environment boss Cllr Michael Green cut the ribbon to launch the Britannia Greenway in Bacup on Saturday releasing of host of youngsters on scooters onto the 0.6 mile route.

Its opening completes the first section of the Valley of Stone route, one of four in the East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway project.

The schemes (The Weavers Wheel round Blackburn, The Valley of Stone connecting Rawtenstall to Whitworth, National Cycle Network Route 6 linking Accrington to Stubbins and the Huncoat Greenway near Accrington) will create 14 miles of new routes and improve another 59 miles of cycle and bridleways by 2020.

Cllr Green said: "I'm very pleased to open one of the first sections of this cycle network, which will make a real difference to people's travel options, encourage healthy lifestyles, and help to boost the economy.

"The aim is to create a joined-up network that provides access to workplaces, schools, colleges and other services, as well as creating opportunities for tourism and recreation."

"This investment is allowing us to transform largely old disused railway lines, which in parts are muddy, narrow and difficult to negotiate, into 'Greenways' which are great for all sorts of activities."

Future plans for the project include restoration and reopening of the disused railway tunnels in Stacksteads, a new cycle and horse-friendly bridge in Stacksteads Country Park and numerous surfacing improvements along the cycleway routes.