MINISTERS have again been urged to put their hands in their pockets for a cycle path between two of Carmarthenshire’s largest towns.
The council has suspended its own funding for the Towy Valley Path in 2021-22, until further Welsh Government backing is secured.
The Plaid-Independent administration said it was still committed to the 16-mile project between Carmarthen and Llandeilo – around half-a-mile of which has been completed.
At a meeting of full council, Llandeilo councillor Edward Thomas asked if the Towy Valley path ought to qualify for a £55 million pot of Welsh Government money for “active travel” schemes.
The scheme has previously missed out on this funding because it is judged to have less potential than other schemes to get people out of their cars and onto a bike for work, school or college.
Cllr Hazel Evans, executive board member for environment, said the Towy Valley Path was a great opportunity “to showcase the best of Carmarthenshire” for cyclists and walkers.
It would, she said, bring economic, social and environmental benefits – creating between 17 and 47 jobs and a £800,000 to £2.4 million annual boost to the local economy.
Cllr Evans said it would link up five communities, excluding the two towns at either end, and help provide access to employment, education and retail premises.
She added that it would also be a safe alternative to the A40, which she said experienced a high number of personal injury accidents.
“A review of available casualty data for the Towy Valley study area shows that 17 accidents were recorded along the A40 in the five years prior to 2018,” she said. “This included two fatal collisions.”
According to Cllr Evans, Deputy Minister for Transport Lee Waters said in a meeting last week that new paths along disused railway lines could qualify for grant funding if they linked communities.
She said Carmarthenshire Council has applied for a separate pot of Welsh Government money – the Local Transport Fund – to help deliver the Towy Valley scheme, much of which follows the route of a disused railway line.
She added that the authority had published active travel masterplans for its major towns and settlements, which included the Towy Valley Path.
Cllr Evans said: “We can only hope that the Deputy Minister will support our ambition to see this project delivered for our communities, provide a first-class attraction for tourists and deliver on the potential annual economic benefits to the county – particularly the tourism and hospitality sectors that have been so badly hit during the last 12 months.”
The expected cost of the Towy Valley Path has risen since since its inception, and is currently forecast to cost £12 million to £14.5 million to complete.
The council has invested around £2 million into the project to date, with the Welsh Government contributing £1.6 million via different grants. A 750m section linking Carmarthen Museum in Abergwili to White Mill was completed two years ago.
The Welsh Government has been asked for a comment.