An ambitious project to create walking and cycling trails connecting up Cornwall is expected to go £6 million over budget and over time, leading to it being declared "high risk."

Concerns have now been raised at Cornwall Council about the Saints Trails project to build four new multi-user trails covering around 30 kilometres.

It had been hoped that the new Saints Trail would follow in the footsteps of the Camel Trail, which has more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The first stage of a new trail linking Perranporth and Newquay for walkers and cyclists was given the go-ahead last November, after the council’s strategic planning committee heard that it was expected to attract around 300,000 people a year.

The 15.5km route would be part of a wider set of trails being created by the council across the Duchy, which would also include routes from St Newlyn East to Carland Cross, Trispen to Idless, and St Agnes to Threemilestone.

Its plan was for the Perranporth to Newquay route to start at Perranporth Fire Station and cut through Goonhavern on its way to Newquay. Some of the it would use former railway lines, include new bridges and part of it would run alongside the Lappa Valley railway attraction.


However the original budget for the scheme was around £19.1million and that has now soared to £25m – and the land has also not been acquired or even agreed by landowners.

Now Cornwall Council’s own audit officers have classed the project as being “high risk” as it will not be delivered on budget or on deadline.

In a report to be considered today, they state that they could only give “limited assurance” about the scheme, with the suggestion that the scheme has not been managed in the way such a high profile venture should.

As well as concerns about the budget and timescale of the project auditors have also raised concerns about risks around the need to purchase residential property for the land needed for the trails.

A report on the scheme is set to be presented to the council’s audit committee when it meets today (Friday, January 29).

Funding for the scheme includes £17.1m from Highways England and £2m from the council.

The Highways England funding had originally included a requirement to be spent by March 2021 but the council has negotiated to extend that to March 2022.

However the report to the audit committee states that it may not be able to meet that deadline.

The report states: “Due to the value, importance and high profile nature of the project, the Saints Trails should have been classified as a strategic or critical project. As this was not the case, the governance framework has failed to provide the required level of transparency and escalate the significant risks associated with completion of the project to the Capital Oversight Group and Cabinet.

“Saints Trails is a high-profile project promoted by the council and delivery is currently behind schedule as the required land for the trails has not been acquired. The Transport and Infrastructure Project Board reported that total forecast spend is likely to be circa £25m.”

In a detailed report to the audit committee it is stated that in order to acquire the land needed for the Saints Trails the council may have to use compulsory purchase powers, but this may mean that the land is not acquired until June 2023.

Auditors said that the initial timeline for the project “failed to take into account the timescales involved for the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and potential public inquiries to acquire the required land for the proposed routes”.

It adds that no private land had been acquired by November 2020 and that three landowners “remain resistant to selling their land, and terms have not been agreed with many other landowners”.