PARISH councils are supporting ambitious plans to extend the Great Northern Railway Trail.

Wilsden and Cullingworth councils have joined Haworth’s civic leaders in pledging support for the expansion of the walking route along a former rail line.

The councillors responded positively to presentations at their monthly meetings by one of the leading lights of the long-established effort to create the footpath.

Volunteer Jeff McQuillan has visited various councils in villages around the former track, which ran through Cullingworth and near Harecroft on the high-level route from Keighley to Bradford.

Mr McQuillan proposals to extend the trail - which already runs from Cullingworth to Harecroft to connect up Keighley, Halifax and Bradford.

The route would be designed to appeal to walkers, leisure cyclists, and even people cycling to work.

Wilsden councillors agreed to join a Local Council Partnership that will soon be formed to help push the project forward.

Cullingworth Village Council voted to appoint councillors Addi Bostan and Mark Welthy to represent it on the project’s working party.

The decisions at recent meetings followed a June visit by Mr McQuillan to Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council, where members expressed an interest in being involved in the partnership.

Mr McQuillan told councillors he hoped to get the partnership up and running by the end of summer, and hold a meeting of interested parties.

In his presentations, Mr McQuillan showed councillors a short film highlighting the benefits of the scheme.

Mr McQuillan, who used to be a senior Bradford Council planning officer, chairs the group responsible for the trail.

He said: “As a group we began 17 years ago to save railway heritage – including Hewenden, Thornton and Cullingworth viaducts – by creating a cycling and walking trail.

“We now want to link Bradford up with Keighley and Halifax, as well as the smaller communities in between, using as much of the former Great Northern Railway as possible.

“We’ve worked with Bradford Council and the national sustainable transport charity Sustrans on building sections of the trail at Cullingworth and between Thornton and Queensbury.

“We have a lot of experience and expertise and what’s appealing about this trail is that it’s offroad and makes it easy and safe for people to get into the open countryside.”

“It isn’t a priority now for Bradford Council, before of funding cutbacks, but we feel it’s important that the trail isn’t lost and that we keep up the momentum.

“There is an opportunity for parish and town councils to come together to support a section of the planned route from Keighley to Denholme.

“It’s not just about money, it’s also about there being the political will in place.”

Mr McQuillan said that once parish councils have signed up to the project, “without any obligations”, they would look at how to progress things further.

There is currently no map detailing the exact route that the expanded Great Northern Railway Trail will follow.

A separate group called the Queensbury Tunnel Society is working to restore a historic tunnel to help link the trail to Halifax.

Campaigners want the 1.4-mile long Victorian structure, linking Keighley and Bradford to Halifax to be reopened as part of a cycle network.

But Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which looks after the tunnel for the Department for Transport (DfT), is looking to abandon it as part of a £3.2 million project starting in September.