North Yorkshire County Council has been urged to press the Chancellor to fund safe cycling and walking routes between Richmondshire villages and market towns
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmond constituency committee heard Rishi Sunak MP had backed a campaign to create a route for pedestrians and cyclists between Gilling West and Richmond.
The campaign, which Gilling West residents say follows decades of the council ignoring pleas for a sustainable travel route to the town, follows demand for safe walking and cycling routes rising following lockdown and the government announcing it would fund their development.
It also follows the authority receiving calls from a number of villages, including Catterick and Great Ayton, to develop the routes.
Campaigner Janette Povey told the meeting some 760 villagers had signed a petition to the authority, highlighting how children who attended schools in Richmond were provided with free school transport as the road was deemed too dangerous, despite the two-mile distance usually being considered walkable by the authority.
She said traffic had markedly increased in recent years due to more than 30 businesses being located along the route and blind bends and the narrow lane exacerbated the risks pedestrians and cyclists faced.
She said: “This is of huge concern locally. Our petition gathered hundreds of signatures in just a few days. There isn’t an alternative, viable or practical route. The designated footpath is not a safe or inclusive path. It isn’t suitable for pushchairs, cyclists or the disabled as it requires folk to navigate ploughed fields, styles, livestock and a golf course.
“I would urge you to not just consider cycle paths in areas where they would be easy and cheap to construct, but to think about the more challenging but more dangerous routes which members of the public, me included, have been asking you to address for many years.”
Councillor Heather Moorhouse told the meeting she understood why the residents’ wanted the cycle path and wished them luck, adding that despite 15 years of work and a sizeable committee behind it, funding had yet to be secured for a cycle path from Stokesley to Great Ayton.
Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said there were ambitions for similar schemes in her division and called on the authority to have lists of suitable schemes ready for when government grants are available.
She said: “We need to be the first in. I know North Yorkshire County Council has the absolute network to be first in to be able to start helping people like Janette to put that bid forward.”
Councillor Bryn Griffiths said while North Yorkshire was a rural county, government funding tended to be focused towards urban paths and cycleways and urged the council to raise the issue with central government and Mr Sunak.
The meeting heard the authority’s transport planning team would examine the West Gilling proposal and report to the next meeting of the committee, in November.
Members were told the council had been invited to bid for a share of £2bn government funding to create walking and cycling routes, but the authority remained unaware of the process to apply for the money.
Officers told the meeting that they would ensure suitable schemes were put forward as soon as they had further details about the government grants.