More than 1,400 people have signed a petition against a takeover bid for the old railway line that runs between Scarborough and Whitby amid fears a scheme to restore the track could decimate its natural beauty.
Scarborough Borough Council is set to consider handing over the management of the Cinder Track, which passes through Ravenscar and Robin Hood’s Bay, to Sustrans, the national walking and cycling charity,
The charity says the track is in urgent need of repair and has drafted a restoration plan, which suggests widening the path by at least three metres, establishing a tree and shrub-free verge of at least one metre either side and resurfacing parts of the route.
But while residents and visitors to the Yorkshire Coast accept the track is in need of improvement, they fear the proposals, which have been subject to consultation, would make the path look ugly, obliterate wildlife and attract speeding cyclists.
An online petition was set up last week and it has already attracted more than 1,400 signatures, with printed petitions in shops, cafes and restaurants along the route also garnering support.
Heather Dale, from Robin Hood’s Bay, who is leading the campaign, said: “The slight twists and turns, the proliferation of wildlife, trees and wildflowers, coupled with magnificent views, have made the Cinder Track a much-loved and used country pathway. Visitors return repeatedly knowing that it will remain ‘a special place’, unchanging in its beauty. This would all be jeopardised by the Sustrans’ proposals, which would effectively replace a beautiful and meandering country bridleway, loved by walkers, families, horse riders and cyclists, with a widened and Tarmac-surfaced track that would now be usable by and attractive to fast road bikes and the more competitive mountain bikers.
“I don’t think anybody would argue that the path needs work, as it has been neglected, but all it needs is a bit of TLC. It should be kept like it is.”
Mrs Dale said it was difficult to see who would benefit from the proposals, other than Sustrans, the council and cyclists who may wish to travel more easily at speed over long distances, adding: “Scarborough Council will benefit as they’ll no longer be responsible for the maintenance of the track, Sustrans will of course benefit as they will have access to grant funding, as well as enjoying an amplified public profile.
“However, the negative impact on local residents and visitors, and the detrimental costs to the nature of the track to the safety and enjoyment of current path users, and to the local economy and community as a whole will be considerable and irreversible.”
Sustrans said it had been working with the council on proposed improvements to the track.
A spokesman said: “A number of options for path surfacing are being considered on a section-by-section basis. The consultation is ongoing and it goes without saying that ensuring the route meets people’s needs and stands the test of time are among our top priorities.”
A Scarborough Borough Council spokesperson said: “We have been working with Sustrans on how to make best use of the Cinder Track for residents and visitors.
“During the consultation we have had a large number of responses and we are working with Sustrans to ensure the final report can strike the right balance for all users. Once complete, the report will be reviewed by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board prior to any decision being made.”