WORK has finally begun on the controversial Bilton to Ripley cycleway.
After years of planning and debate, Sustrans, the cycling charity, has finalised details with North Yorkshire County Council for the Nidderdale Greenway.
A planning inspector decided in Sustrans’s favour in March last year after more than a decade of legal wranglings, saying the potential benefits of the 3.7km (2.3mile) path, which will be used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, outweighed fears over privacy and anti-social behaviour.
Concerns were raised in the Advertiser last month that the scheme was taking too long to get off the ground.
But now surfacing work has begun, the cycleway is expected to be complete and open to the public by the autumn.
Malcolm Margolis, who has backed the project since it was first mooted over 15 years ago and runs the Wheel Easy cycling club in Harrogate, said: “It will be a huge and frequently used asset for Wheel Easy, for all cyclists who prefer quiet and safe paths especially for young families, for walkers, horse riders and wheelchair users.
“In short, we do believe that for local cyclists in particular, it will be the best thing since sliced bread. That’s why we’ve fought so hard for this, so let’s hope events prove that we were right.”
The cycleway will link into nearly 800 miles of the National Cycle Network across Yorkshire, including a 170-mile coast-to-coast route between Morecambe and Bridlington through the Yorkshire Dales and Wolds, which was opened in 2010.
The network, which was developed in the 1990s with a £43m Lottery grant, stretches to around 13,000 miles nationwide.
Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, is supporting this project as part of its national Connect2 programme with funding coming from the Big Lottery.