Supporters of a planned £750,000 cycle path through the Wye Valley have set up a group to highlight the benefits of the proposed scheme, which has been criticised in some quarters, including a local parish council voting unanimously against the scheme.
In August, we reported that Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, had submitted plans to to the Forest of Dean Council and Monmouthshire County Council for the proposed cycle path, which is intended to link Chepstow and Tintern.
The proposed facility will be part-funded through the Big Lottery Fund under the Sustrans Connect2 project.
The planned route largely follows the disused Wye Valley railway line through the lower gorge of the River Wye, including two former railway tunnels and a new bridge that will cross the river at the point once occupied by a railway bridge.
Andy Littledale of the Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling group said that the planned cycle path would “be a benign and well-loved asset to the community and not a magnet for anti-social behaviour and parking problems,” according to the website, This Is Gloucestershire.
"Local kids could cycle to school, disabled people could access the Wye Valley without getting in their cars and the local businesses in the area would get a well-needed boost," he added.
However, the project does not have unanimous local support, with Tidenham Parish Council, which the eastern bank of the river along which the planned route runs, rejecting it for a variety of reasons including potential problems with parking and the cost of maintenance.
Chairman John Powell told This Is Gloucestershire: "Sustrans are known for coming up with the cash to buy these things and then not looking after them,” without citing specific examples to back up his claim.
"If this goes through and that is the case, which I expect it would be, then the parish council would be left with a maintenance bill of £40,000 per year to look after the path,” he insisted. “The knock-on effect is that this would have to come out of council tax, meaning that people would find their council tax bill rising by 40 per cent just to afford this, it's crazy.
"I, and the rest of the council, sincerely hope this doesn't go through," he added.
Councillor Powell also rejected suggestions that the new route would benefit local businesses. "It is an absurd statement as we only have one pub and we don't have any cafes," he maintained.
Last year, the Tidenham Parish Council opposed plans to install a viewing platform on the Devil’s Pulpit, a limestone outcrop overlooking Tintern Abbey, with opponents claiming that the proposal was part of a growing trend that risked turning the Wye Valley into “theme park.”
Judy Lewis, who lives in nearby Brockweir and is a member of the Brockweir Cycleway Concern group, told the South Wales Argus last week: "It's a national route coming into the Wye Valley and we are concerned for the landscape. A lot of people will bring cars to the area and we don't think that the valley can cope with this."
On its website, the Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling group sets out a number of messages of support from locals including Sian Lloyd, the TV weather presenter, who said: "I have a passion for walking and cycling and Sustrans' plans for the railway path sound fantastic. What an amazing resource for the people of the Wye Valley and the surrounding area. I am behind them 100 per cent."
It also quotes a Daily Telegraph article from Ben Fogle in which the TV adventurer gave his backing to the project, saying: "Last week I stayed with Kate Humble at her beautiful home in the Wye Valley. We spent the weekend walking the dogs around the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
"Sustrans... hopes to reopen the Wye Valley railways line as a 'greenway' giving a traffic-free alternative to walkers, cyclists and riders between Chepstow and Brockweir, via Tintern. They would be applauded, as the link would provide a welcome attraction to the region," Fogle added.
Monmouthsire County Council has invited people to put forward their views on the proposed cycle path by email to planning [at] monmouthshire.gov.uk, quoting planning reference number DC/2010/00783, but you’ll need to be quick because the deadline is tomorrow.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.