Hayling Billy upgrade project - Progress Jan 13Posted on: January 13, 2013 by: Paul FisherIt is the best part of 30 years since John Grimshaw, founder and leader of Sustrans, conducted acomprehensive study of the Billy Tail, with the recommendation that it should be upgraded to anall-weather path, enabling all types of users convenient passage at all times of the year.Hampshire County Council, owners of the land, purchased at a nominal sum from British Rail,following the closure of the railway in 1963, have consistently resisted this recommendation,generally citing its nature reserve status.English Nature (now Natural England) then wished to impose a ‘managed retreat’ policy, thusallowing vulnerable sections of the Trail to be at risk from the tide. Once again, HCC took this asan opportunity to avoid contemplation of upgrading the trail, despite having by now upgraded thenorthern sections on the mainland, bowing to pressure from local residents.Fortunately, the power of Natural England to dictate policy towards the western coast of theIsland has receded and the Environment Agency now have control, recently changing the policyto ‘hold the line’, meaning that the route of the Billy Trail will be protected. HCC, therefore, haveno excuse not to upgrade the Trail, other than citing a lack of the necessary finance.It is to be hoped that the funding for the northern Island section will be found for the HB50project and that this will lead to the real possibility that the whole Trail will be upgraded in thenot too distant future.An upgrade will not just benefit existing users, principally cyclists (75%), walkers (21%) andhorseriders (4%), but also disability ‘buggy’ drivers and runners. Indeed, Mike Williams ofHavant Athletics Club, organisers of the Hayling 10 and Rob Piggott, organiser of the PortsmouthMarathon, with both events using the Trail, are critical of the state of the Trail and fully supportour upgrade campaign.Finally, The Billy Trail has been designated part of the ‘The Shipwrights Way’ project from northHampshire to Portsmouth and at least two original sculptures are to be erected alongside theTrail, reflecting some aspect of the trail and local history. Let us hope that these works of art arenot soon covered in mud!