A £715,000 boost for a Broads cycling and walking route has been greeted with delight by the Authority, Norfolk County Council and local campaigners.
The award from the Government's Cycling Ambition in National Parks initiative was announced today by the Department for Transport.
The allocation, supported with further funding from the County Council and Broads Authority, will go towards a £1m cycle and walking route between Hoveton and Horning. This will be the first phase of the Three Rivers Way, a long-planned project that will ultimately connect Wroxham Hoveton, Horning, Ludham and Potter Heigham.
This first phase will run along the northern side of the A1062, providing improved local travel to school, work and shops, as well as an attractive route for visitors. For those arriving by train or car, the route is supported by cycle hire at Hoveton, Bewilderwood and Horning giving access to healthy countryside cycling, including riverside amenities and Bewilderwood itself, a nationally recognised tourist attraction.
The proposed scheme has significant local support which was fundamental to the success of the bid. A safe route should encourage a wider range of people on to bicycles, including families and the active retired. Their spending power will support village outlets, particularly those supplying food and drink. Increased spending in traditional local businesses will also help support the rural economy. Works are planned to start early next year (2016) with completion by the summer.
Adrian Clarke, Senior Waterways and Recreation Officer at the Broads Authority, said: "This is fantastic news. It will make it so much easier for visitors to choose to cycle when they come to the Broads National Park by improving cycle links to the rail network, which is one of the key aims of our Integrated Access Strategy. In the future we would like to develop cycling facilities and link the Three Rivers Way route to the villages of Ludham and Potter Heigham."
Peter Howe of Broadland Cycle Hire and the Three Rivers Way Association said: “This is truly fantastic news for the Three Rivers Way Association and for the area. We have been working on this project for around ten years, so it is hard to believe that we have been successful at last. It's a much-needed improvement that will allow people to get out into the countryside.
"This is a landmark announcement. It will bring more focus on completion of the whole Three Rivers Way, but it also recognises that investment in cycling is needed in rural areas, as well as cities."
Cllr Toby Coke, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Environment, Development & Transport Committee said: “I am absolutely delighted, and particularly pleased for the local people and businesses who have campaigned long and hard for the Three Rivers Way. There have been setbacks, but this announcement shows what can be achieved through partnership – and persistence.
“The County Council and Broads Authority have continued to give their backing because it is an excellent example of a project that ensures the vitality of tourism in rural Norfolk, and at the same time provides a welcome new amenity for local people. It will link local communities and businesses, and offers healthy travel choices for all users.”
Cllr Nigel Dixon, County Councillor for Hoveton and Stalham, said it was an important step forward in providing sustainable transport: "This will be a great asset, particularly for cyclists. I hope we will soon see families bringing their bikes on the train and cycling to Bewilderwood and on to Horning. This is the first significant step in linking Hoveton and Potter Heigham."
Cllr David Thomas, Member for North Smallburgh, which includes Horning, said. "I'm absolutely delighted - its the reward for hard work by local people. They were knocked back when an earlier bid was unsuccessful, but decided to give it another go. I believe this first phase will be the ice-breaker leading to completion of the whole route, all the way to Potter Heigham."