Decision on long-awaited cycleway

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After 15 long years the Bilton to Ripley cycleway finally looks set to open this spring.

North Yorkshire County Council’s proposal to divert part of the route was upheld by the planning inspectorate after a public inquiry, meaning work can soon begin on the final section of the path.

Claire Wright from Sustrans said: “Hopefully it will be completed in the spring. Obviously we want to get the work completed as soon as possible so that people can start to enjoy it.

“The majority of the route is already completed; the remaining segment should take around six weeks to complete.”

Cycle enthusiast and Bilton to Ripley Steergroup campaigner Malcolm Margolis has expressed his delight at news the route is soon to open.

He said: “It’s been 15 years of campaigning, we have had to really persevere over the years.

“It’ll be great and so many people will be able to enjoy it. I can’t wait to try it out. I’ll be there on my bike the first day it opens.”

The 3.7km path, for use by walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, will begin at Bilton Lane in Harrogate and finish at Killinghall Bridge in Ripley.

Horse rider Pat Ki moved to Bilton in November 2008, hoping the bridleway would open in 2009.

She said: “It will be so lovely to finally be able to ride safely away from traffic.”

The £400,000 scheme funded by a Big Lottery grant has hit a number of stumbling blocks.

Two public inquiries have been held in the past 12 months, the latest of which led to the planning inspectorate agreeing the route diversion.

Mr Margolis said: “This is the route we have always wanted for so many years.

“The planning inspectorate order means the path will be the one we thought we were getting, not the route we got by error.”

The diverted route is expected to be more suitable for wheelchair-users.

In his report, planning inspector Mark Yates said: “Harrogate-based charity Open Country, which helps disabled people access the countryside, recommend that slopes have a gradient of 1:12 to facilitate access. Mr Shaftoe from Open Country says he has been assured by Sustrans that the diversion will comply to this gradient.”

Sustrans have yet to set an opening date but said they will start work as soon as possible.