PLANS to build a traffic-free link between Grange and Arnside have taken a step forward – but councillors were told the proposed project could cost £30 million.

Members of the South Lakeland locality board for Westmorland and Furness Council recommended approving £99,999 from the local sustainable travel and transport fund goes towards the project to adapt the Arnside viaduct to enable walkers and cyclists to cross the Kent Estuary.

Cabinet member for climate and biodiversity councillor Giles Archibald said: “This is exactly the sort of project we should be supporting as a locality board. It is a transformational project and it’s a project that will leave a legacy we can all be proud of.

“This isn’t going to complete the project, but it is at a very important stage which will allow us to move towards completing this project.”

Cllr Archibald told members a report said the scheme would be eligible for community infrastructure levy money which is available to areas of South Lakeland outside the national park.

A report from Morecambe Bay Partnership says: “The proposed construction of a 5.5km raised boardwalk along the railway embankment and a cantilevered bridge over the viaduct creates a new leisure space that also limits the current harmful encroachment by people and dogs onto the highly sensitive saltmarsh.

“The enclosed trail route can play an important part in reducing bird disturbance and preventing damage to sensitive flora and fauna. These are all factors of concern locally to us and our partners Natural England and RSPB who are tackling this problem.

“We believe the trail provides an opportunity to bring people closer to nature and educate them to care about the special environment and wildlife of the Bay.”

Councillor Suzanne Pender (Coniston and Hawkshead, Lib Dems) told board members she likes the ‘vision’ for the Arnside to Grange trail but is ‘nervous’ about the project.

She said: “I can see this is a £30 million project and it has named the council as the delivery partner. It’s quite a big project and it does worry and concern me how we’re going to find the funding for it, have we got the ability to deliver.

“It’s making me nervous as a project manager to support at this stage, I think would like more information before supporting that application.”

According to a report feedback for the proposed scheme was ‘incredibly positive’ with 99.6 per cent of the 6,000 respondents to the consultation supporting the proposal.

The partnership intends to progress the Arnside to Grange trail scheme to outline business case (OBC) status which is the planning phase of the project and acts as the final technical assessment stage prior to the initiation of scheme procurement.

The partnership will commission consultants to provide the technical engineering, environmental, active travel planning and place making expertise to achieve support for the scheme which provides a ‘compelling’ case for construction funding.

Members of the South Lakeland locality board for Westmorland and Furness Council recommended the funding for the project on January 25 at Kendal Town Hall.