SOUTH Ribble’s first new park in 40 years is set to be officially opened.

Complete with an iconic Inglis Bridge, sensory garden, wild bluebell wood, wetlands and nature trail, St Catherine’s Park, in Lostock Hall, is the first of the Central Parks to be completed.

To mark the milestone, a ‘Picnic in the Park’ is set to be held on June 12 to coincide with the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.

Councillor Phil Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Leisure, said: "Central Parks is an impressive scheme that will see the biggest new park in the North West created.

"Fundamentally, it will not only provide another first class park in South Ribble, it'll also protect swathes of our beautiful green space from future development - providing a lasting legacy from the council to future generations. In fact, it will actually be bigger than our award-winning Worden Park, Hurst Grange Park and the Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve all together.

"It is such a big project that it will take 15 years to complete so the official opening of St Catherine’s Park is an incredibly exciting step forward.”

The new park marries council-owned land, formerly known as Dandy Brook Park, with open space belonging to St Catherine’s Hospice.

New footpaths have been created to ensure that it is fully accessible to wheelchair users and families with prams.

Lorraine Charlesworth, Director of Community and Income at St Catherine’s, said: “The development of St Catherine’s Park has been an important part of our plans in recent years to open the hospice grounds up to more people.

“We want to invite our community in to enjoy the parkland – from the wetlands area to the sensory garden – and to make use of the facilities at our onsite café and community hub, The Mill.

“The extension to St Catherine’s Park and its official opening to the public is a significant milestone, and we’re pleased to be involved in the council’s Party in the Park event.”

Visitors are invited to bring a picnic and blanket to enjoy the fun which will start at 1pm.

It will include live music from talented local acts, a barbecue and a magician wowing visitors with eye-popping illusions.

The Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Alan Jolley will unveil a plaque to declare the park officially open at 3.30pm at the new ornamental gateway.

The Inglis Bridge, which has been re-cast from one of the world’s only surviving examples of the design used in the First World War, will then be opened at 3.45pm followed by a toast to the Queen at 4pm.

The park is the first to be delivered as part of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal – a £430m scheme to create up to 20,000 new jobs, new homes and upgrade transport links over the next decade.

Welcoming the move, Leader of Lancashire County Council, County Councillor Jennifer Mein, said: "As well as transforming the economy of central Lancashire, creating jobs and prosperity for local people, the City Deal also aims to boost people's quality of life, by improving local communities and providing high-quality public spaces for the people who live in those communities to enjoy.

“This new park will be an attractive green space for people to enjoy for generations and I'd urge people to come along and join the fun at the grand opening."

A Park and Ride service will be offered on the day – more details will follow.

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