A DECISION on whether to turn the old rail line between Scarborough and Whitby into a track suitable for high speed bikes will be taken by councillors next month after a heated consultation period that has seen a protest petition signed by more than 7,000 people.
The 21-mile route, known locally as the Cinder Track, has been barely maintained since its abandonment by the railways in the mid-1960s.
The transport charity Sustrans has produced a proposal, funded by £44,000 from the government’s coastal revival fund, which would see it widened and resurfaced. But opponents say it would mean the loss of around 450 trees and that a new, sealed road surface would encourage the use of “unsafe” road bikes travelling at speed.
The latest in a series of public meetings was held today, organised by the Whitby Civic Society, before the Sustrans plans go before Scarborough Council’s scrutiny board later next week.
A final decision is expected before the end of October.
It is estimated that 60,000 people live within a mile of the track and that its upgrading could see a fivefold increase in use.
Heather Dale, of the Cinder Track Preservation Group, said the council should have invited alternative proposals.
She said: “It’s a one-horse race. Sustrans were given thousands to come up with a proposal and it’s now the only one on the table. Others would have come up with one for nothing.”
She added that given the opportunity, campaigners could have formed a trust to put forward an alternative plan, which would have protected the track as a natural area, suitable for walkers, horses and mountain bikes.
Ms Dale, who handed a petition to Scarborough Council this week, said: “Our concerns and based on evidence and experience. It’s not just nimbyism.
“The plans would encourage unsafe fast bikes and would cost 450 trees, including the beautiful cathedral of trees at Middlewood.”
Fylingdales resident Ray Clifford, who put the Sustrans plans on public display at Ravenscar last week, said: “People do not want the urbanised type of cycle track that is being proposed.
“There is a big difference between an urban track and the country lane and nature trail that we have now.”
Sustrans acknowledged that “more information needs to be gathered” to ensure the track thrived as a “wildlife corridor”.
Rupert Douglas, its network development manager for Yorkshire, said: “We feel that sympathetically restoring the track to a high quality and all weather, user-friendly route for all while preserving the habitat the route provides for flora and fauna will give the local community an asset to enjoy and be proud of.”
David James, honorary secretary of Whitby Civic Society, said it was taking a neutral stance, but had called today’s meeting “to hopefully reassure people that the work they are doing is going to be carried out sensitively”.