PLANNING permission for the first stage of the Wharfedale Greenway is expected to be in place by next summer.

The scheme involves turning a disused railway line into a walking and cycling route that will connect Pool-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston.

Detailed plans have been submitted for the first phase, linking Otley to Burley - and the application is “virtually there”, according to Burley parish councillor Stuart Bottomley.

Efforts are also being put into making progress with phase 2, Otley to Pool, and the phase 3 link with Menston.

Now Ilkley Parish Council is being urged to submit a pre-application for phase 4 - Burley to Denton Bridge - over the next three to four months.

Cllr Bottomley updated Ilkley parish councillors on the scheme’s progress at a meeting on Monday. He told them submitting a pre-application would allow them to see what would be required- and he said there was a very good chance that funding could be relatively easy because phase 4 could be “sucked in” to phase 1.

Former Ilkley councillor Brian Mann told the meeting £12,000 had already been spent on a Sustrans feasibility study.

As well as linking Burley to Denton Bridge the stretch would then go through Ilkley and on to Addingham.

“You should decided whether we as a town are going ahead with this project,” he told the meeting.

He said he had always been optimistic about the scheme, and he pointed out: “The whole climate for these kind of projects has changed as far as government is concerned.”

Cllr Pauline Allon suggested testing public opinion to see what local people thought.

Ilkley councillors approved funding for the feasibility study in January 2017.

Supporters of the Wharfedale Greenway say it will bring transport, environmental, health, tourism and economic benefits.

The feasibility study was the first step in a process which could see the scheme extended out to Ilkley and Addingham.

In 2016 Cllr Claire Darling urged the parish council to “get on” with approving the feasibility study and described the cost as “peanuts” compared to the benefits that would come from the scheme.

The Wharfedale Greenway will follow the route of a railway line that has been out of operation for over 50 years – the Arthington to Burley railway.