Council funding for a flagship cycle project in Carmarthenshire could be reallocated elsewhere in 2021-22, with local authority chiefs frustrated it didn’t qualify for funding aimed at getting commuters out of their cars and onto a bike.
The Plaid Cymru-Independent administration said it remained committed to the Towy Valley Path scheme between Carmarthen and Llandeilo, but has proposed moving £175,000 of planned investment in 2021-22 into a new economic regeneration package worth £4.2 million to help pandemic-hit businesses.
It is one of a series of budget proposals which are currently out for consultation.
Speaking at an executive board meeting, Cllr David Jenkins reaffirmed the council’s support of the 16-mile path, which will be for walkers as well as cyclists.
He added: “However, currently external funding which is needed to complete the project is proving difficult to secure.”
A 750m section of the path linking Carmarthen Museum in Abergwili to White Mill was completed two years ago.
The council has invested around £2 million in the project to date, with the Welsh Government contributing £1.6 million via different grants.
But the authority has been unsuccessful in recent attempts to secure money from the Welsh Government’s newly-established Active Travel fund.
The Welsh Government said the aim of Active Travel funding was to connect communities and get more people out of their cars and onto a bike when they went to work or accessed education.
A spokesman said the Towy Valley Path was judged as having lower potential to increase such journeys compared to other schemes.
He said ministers felt the project was a valuable recreational route and that they were encouraging the council to find other sources of funding.
The spokesman added that Active Travel schemes must be on a council’s “integrated network map”, and that this wasn’t currently the case for the Towy Valley Path.
Speaking at the executive board meeting, Cllr Cefin Campbell and council leader Emlyn Dole said they believed the project should qualify for Active Travel money.
Cllr Dole said people were using the complete section of path for Active Travel purposes, and that the project would link two of Carmarthenshire’s largest towns, plus villages in between.
He said he would keep pressing the case with Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters.
“So I will continue to make those comments and I will continue to put pressure on him the Government as well to stay with in with us on this plan,” said Cllr Dole.
The projected cost of the Towy Valley Path is now £12 million to £14.5 million, up from £5 million to £8 million at the very outset. It is expected to generate £860,000 to £2 million locally per year.
According to the council’s capital programme, there is £405,000 of external funding earmarked for it in 2021-22.
Llandeilo councillor Edward Thomas said the scheme would benefit his hometown, the tourism sector, and create jobs along its route.
Cllr Thomas reckoned people from Nantgaredig west would use it to get to work in Carmarthen, and that pupils nearer his patch would cycle to school in Llandeilo on it.
“And you’ve got the beauty of the Towy Valley,” he said.
Phil Snaith, chairman of campaign group Carmarthenshire Cycling Forum, said it supported the Towy Valley Path and that the Nantgaredig to Carmarthen stretch was potentially an Active Travel route.
Mr Snaith said he would expect tourism and rural development funds to be applicable for the path east of Nantgaredig.
He added that he would like to see more Active Travel projects in Ammanford and Llanelli in particular.
“In many respects we are quite well off for long-distance trails in Carmarthenshire,” he said.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk