An ambitious £3.5m plan to transform the former Scarborough to Whitby rail track into a state of-the-art amenity for cyclists and walkers has been given widespread backing following two public meetings.
The draft Cinder Track Restoration Plan is the culmination of years of planning by Scarborough Borough Council, which owns the 21-mile stretch.
The rail line, opened in 1885, was closed in 1965 under the Beeching Review and five years later it was bought by the local authority with the aim of creating a long-distance recreational trail.
After years of neglect, the council has produced a report containing details of its restoration plans which has now been published for public consultation.
Cllr Hazel Lynskey, chairman of the council’s Cinder Track Task Group, announced that a series of meetings would be held in the parishes on the route to show residents what the plans are and listen to their feedback.
She said: “We have had an excellent response in terms of enthusiastic support and numbers of organisations and residents keen to see the track’s restoration become a reality.
“We are at a crossroads when it comes to the track and the status quo is not an
option. To leave the track as it is, it will gradually erode further and become more overgrown. Investment in it is necessary to preserve this valued resource for years to come.”
The draft restoration plan includes a proposal to keep the current track width, introduce passing places at narrow points, and install chicanes and gates where there is the potential for speeding cyclists.
Tarmac would be used in certain locations, but none in rural areas where there is no vehicular traffic.
Paul Thompson, the council officer with responsibility for the production of the plan, said: “The track has suffered from lack of maintenance for a number of years and is now in a poor condition along most of its length. The drainage alongside the track is largely blocked and the surface has eroded to such an extent that in a number of places the track in itself has become the drain, further exacerbating the erosion problem.”
He added: “The track presents an opportunity which should not be missed,” adding that it is an important wildlife corridor, a big opportunity to encourage cycling and walking and an asset to boost the coastal economy.
Although the track is owned by the council, the Larpool Viaduct belongs to national cycling charity Sustrans.
Scarborough Council had initially considered handing over the management of the track to Sustrans.
However, some people feared that the charity’s own restoration plan was too “drastic” and that, if approved, the nature of the track would have changed “dramatically”.
In summer 2017, over 1,400 people signed a petition to ask the council to reject Sustrans’ proposals, which would have seen a hard, sealed surface installed on the path and the removal of trees and verges.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “We’re pleased the council is continuing to develop a plan for the Cinder Track and we’ve made some comments on it.
“As we stated in the plan we were producing, this fantastic active travel resource is urgently in need of significant and sustained investment, and we want to work in partnership with the council and others like the National Park and the National Trust to deliver effective improvements for the benefit of local residents and a sustainable future for the Yorkshire Coast economy.”
The final version of the restoration plan, which also involves the set-up of a £70,000 annual budget for maintenance works, is to go before the council’s Cabinet next month.
The proposals will then be discussed by full council in January prior to a planning application being submitted.