A BID for 'game-changing' funding for the Wharfedale Greenway project has been prepared.

The scheme aims to link Pool-in-Wharfedale, Menston, Otley and Burley-in-Wharfedale using an off-road path network that would include former railway tracks.

It is being pursued by the town and parish councils of the four communities through a steering group chaired by Otley Town Council Chair Ray Georgeson.

The group has put together a £2 million bid for funding from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for phase one - Burley to Otley - of the Greenway, which is due to be formally submitted by Leeds City Council.

Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) said: "Progress on this large scale capital project, which will transform safe commuter and leisure cycling in Wharfedale, was always going to be challenging but we are making some real headway.

"The support of the parishes of Burley, Pool and Menston has been critical to this and we are privileged to be working with them.

"The bid to RDPE for phase 1 is in full preparation and we are hopeful, it certainly would be a game-changer in terms of progress.

"Colleagues from the town and parish councils, including potential future partners Ilkley and Addingham, Leeds and Bradford councils and Sustrans are all working diligently to progress this major project and have maintained a great spirit of co-operation.

"It'll be a big prize if we are successful."

The bid is due to be submitted during August after which the steering group should hear back on their chances of being successful within six weeks.

Councillor Stuart Bottomley, who has been leading work on the scheme for Burley Parish Council, said: "It's taken a long time, more than four years, and a lot of hard work to get here and it has been a struggle.

"But we've managed to tick off most of the land ownership problems, which was by far the biggest single problem.

"We're still in negotiations with Otley Golf Club but we recently had a very meaningful meeting with them and we're quite hopeful we're going to have a successful outcome.

"If the funding bid is successful we'll have a specified time limit, probably within 12 months, in which to spend the money so work on Phase One would start fairly quickly."

Feasibility studies for other parts of the Greenway, including Otley to Pool, have also been completed and there is a possibility the whole route could link up to other networks in the area.

Referring to the potential benefits, Cllr Bottomley added: "We would have a safe, off-road walking and cycling route that would also accommodate equestrian use.

"It would deliver economic and environmental benefits to the communities involved and I think the bulk of local leisure cyclists would use it.

"It would also attract a lot of family activity."