‘STAGE one’ of a scheme to make it easier to walk or cycle around Otley has been completed.

There was hope earlier this year that Otley could be in line to benefit from £2.5 million of funding which West Yorkshire Combined Authority had received from the Department of Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund.

That money is being used by the WYCA and local authorities to introduce a range of measures across the county, including traffic calming work and new cycle lanes, designed to encourage walking and cycling.

It turned out, however, that none of the funding was actually earmarked for the Otley area. That disappointment spurred on ward councillors to lobby to get some action for the town.

Those efforts have now paid off with the footpath in Wharfemeadows Park, between the White Bridge and Farnley Lane, receiving an upgrade so it can how be used as a shared surface by pedestrians and cyclists.

Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “After a great deal of lobbying we managed to obtain some funding to upgrade the narrow path through Wharfemeadows Park to allow it to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists.

“It forms part of a new safe cycle/pedestrian route between the east of Otley and north of the river.

“It will be particularly helpful for young people who need to get to Prince Henry’s Grammar School.”

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “There was already a bridal path between Old Farnley Lane and the White Bridge but this was narrow and pedestrians and cyclists were forced to cross the grassed area of the park causing damage to the surface.

“Obtaining the money has allowed us to create a path that should no longer become unusable during wet weather but has plenty of space for all who might want to use it.”

Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), meanwhile, says he sees the upgrade as part of a wider push to improve sustainable transport options in the town.

He said: “We regard this as the first stage of a larger scheme to make it easier to walk or cycle round Otley.

“We have already had preliminary discussions about a route through Manor Garth Park which would again help young people access school and allow cyclists to avoid the congested Manor Square junction.

“However there is more work to be done with the community about other routes.”

Otley Town Council is currently working with consultants Mobycon on its own project to make the town a more cyclist and pedestrian friendly place over the coming years. A public ‘engagement day’ for StreetVision 2030, held back in March, attracted 200 people.