LINKING up a town centre with a nearby hospital will be the key priority for a council looking to accelerate its cycle-friendly plans.

Darlington Council is working to accelerate cycling and walking infrastructure on key routes in the town and is looking to secure a Government funding boost as part of a package announced this week.

Plans to increase levels of cycling and walking in the borough will begin with a cycle route between Darlington Memorial Hospital and the town centre, which is dubbed the first priority.

This will form the first phase of a direct route from West Park to the town centre as part of wider plans in the Woodland Road and Cockerton area, designed to ease congestion.

Also in the pipeline is a cycle route from the town centre to Morton Park, linking to key employment areas.

However, all of these schemes cost more than what council is allocated, so it will be "working to secure the funding to make them happen".

The Government has provisionally allocated £1.7 million to the Tees Valley to be committed as part of the Active Travel Emergency Fund and Tees Valley Combined Authority has a total of £3.9 million allocated to delivering its Local Walking & Cycling Investment Programme over the next three years.

Darlington is bidding to secure funding for the first phase of the Woodland Road scheme as its priority.

With £2 billion overall announced this week by government, the council says it believes Darlington stands a good chance of securing funding for the plans.

Separately, Darlington Council is working with Durham and Stockton councils to create a Stockton and Darlington Railway walking and cycling route in time for the 2025 bicentenary celebrations.

It is planned to follow the original alignment of the 26 mile route, with a section already being delivered on site at the moment, and will link to the exciting plans for the redevelopment of the Head of Steam Railway Museum.

In addition, the council is rolling out of 20mph speed limits outside schools to improve safety and encourage more families and students to walk and cycle to school.

Councillor Andy Keir, cabinet member for local services, said: “We are committed to improving infrastructure for cycling and walking across the town and around schools to encourage more people to take the healthier and more environmentally friendly options of getting to and from work or school .

“We already work with partners to support the recycling of bikes, provide Bikeability cycle training in schools and a bike buddy scheme to help people start to make their short journeys by bike.

"We will work with the combine authority and other partners to deliver more adult cycle training, cycle parking and access to e-bikes as the Department for Transport issues further guidance on funding and programmes.

“The Government has committed to improving the health of the nation while also tackling climate change and getting out on your bike or walking is the best way to achieve that in one go – we hope to get more people in Darlington walking and cycling.”