THE Helensburgh to Dumbarton cycle route could be completed earlier than the projected 2028 date – and may also extend round the peninsula.

An Argyll and Bute Council official has confirmed that those may be among the benefits if the authority is successful with its bid to the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund.

A £50 million bid to the fund is being prepared by council officers, whose other ideas for a successful bid include work to enable marine transport to berth at Helensburgh pier once more.

Funding from the scheme is expected by the UK Government to be spent by 2024, although it could be extended into 2025 for larger projects.

The progression of the bid was unanimously backed by councillors at a virtual full council meeting on Thursday, September 30. The £50m, if secured, would be shared with other projects elsewhere in Argyll and Bute.

READ MORE: New hope for Helensburgh pier revealed as council bosses set out detail of planned bid for UK Government funds

Councillor David Kinniburgh (Conservative, Helensburgh and Lomond South), the area’s Provost, sought clarity on whether a successful bid would mean faster progress on the cycle path.

He has repeatedly expressed his frustration at the slow progress of the route from Helensburgh to Dumbarton since 2000, labelling it “a total farce” at September’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee meeting.

He said: “This project gets longer every time we talk about it and there is a lot of disquiet about the Dumbarton to Helensburgh phase.

"It was a millennium project and it plods on and on.

“We are trying to deliver this project through SUSTRANS funding, but each step seems to put more and more onus on community consultation.

READ MORE: Helensburgh to Dumbarton cycle path plans "becoming a total farce", says Provost

“It seems to be extending all the time – does this have potential for delivering this part of the cycle way before the timescale we have before us?”

Fergus Murray, the council’s head of economic development, responded: “Essentially that is the whole purpose in terms of active travel element.

“We don’t have any guarantee for delivery of that cycle way as we don’t get a lot of funding for active travel. We do get some, but not enough to deal with active travel routes.

“We are looking at the work we have done and looking to have a compelling case to submit to the UK Government to bring forward delivery earlier than what has been discussed at the area committee.

“The cycle way could also go into [the proposed] Colgrain Business Park, making it a key part of how people get from the business park to the town.

READ MORE: Councillors 'not to blame for cycle path delays', Provost tells Cardross residents

“If we are successful, we can bring things forward at a much faster rate, instead of having to bid for little bits of funding each year.”

Provost Kinniburgh replied: “I realise we need to bid for this funding, but if we are successful it would be very welcome locally.”

An answer to a frequently asked question on the government website, concerning when funding should be spent, states that all funding provided from the fund is expected to be used by March 31, 2024.

It could exceptionally run into 2024/25 for larger schemes.

A cycle route from Helensburgh to Garelochhead – separate from the planned Dumbarton to Helensburgh route – was subject to a public consultation exercise earlier this year.

READ MORE: Designs unveiled for upgraded cycle route linking Helensburgh, Faslane and Garelochhead

Lomond North Independent Councillor George Freeman said: “If we are now discussing a link to Rosneath, I would argue it should be a link to Kilcreggan, as that is where the ferry comes in and it would make for a link to Inverclyde.

“There is work going on with consultants on the cycle route from Helensburgh to Garelochhead, but I am not sure how that links into what we are discussing.”

But Mr Murray said: “I am reluctant to extend it as the deliverability of the listed projects will be extremely challenging for officers.

“I note Councillor Freeman’s proposal but I really feel we have to be realistic with the proposals in front of us, which are ambitious as they are.”

Councillor Freeman then said: “A link from Rosneath to Kilcreggan is a short distance and would be simple in comparison to Rosneath from Garelochhead, which would have major difficulties and costs.”

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