A LOCAL authority responsible for one of the country’s most rural areas has accepted responsibility for more than £30m of government funding to improve travel connections to towns and cities with a working population of more than 200,000.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard although the authority had been unable to submit a standalone bid for the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund as the largest urban centres in the county had too few workers, it had participated in a successful Leeds City Region bid which had been granted £317m.

The funding, to which the county council will add a further £300,000, will see long-held ambitions to transform gateways to and from North Yorkshire, and in particular the areas around stations.

The funding will also be poured into improving facilities and routes for walking and cycling, access to education and employment sites and bus routes to make it easier for North Yorkshire residents to commute to cities such as Leeds and Bradford.

The £5.8m to be spent in Skipton will include improved bus access to the railway station, while the £7.8m being invested in Harrogate will see a number of changes to public areas in the town centre.

Some £17.5m will be ploughed into improving walking and cycling links to two major development sites, including a new cycle and footbridge over the River Ouse, to Olympia Park, a mixed-use urban quarter close to the Selby town centre.

One of the Department for Transport’s stipulations for the funding, for which the county council is the accountable authority, is that the delivering authorities, Craven and Selby district councils and Harrogate Borough Council, must spent it before April 2023.

Craven and Selby councils will contribute £100,000 and £1.8m to the scheme, respectively, but the meeting heard Harrogate council’s contribution remained unclear.

An officers’ report to the meeting warned it was generally accepted that funds awarded by the Department for Transport were finite, and that no additional funding would be awarded in the event that a project overspends, or slips. It stated: “Should schemes overspend, or slip, resulting in overspend, it will therefore be incumbent on the delivering authority, to manage this appropriately. As a consequence of this, it should be recognised that any risk in overspend is likely to be borne by either the county council, or through the funding agreements with the county council the district and borough councils, dependant on who is the lead authority for the scheme.”

Referring to the funding, the authority’s executive member for access, Councillor Don Mackenzie said: “All this is very good news for our local residents, but also for visitors and the whole of the local economy for which better travel options and facilities are so vital.”