A NEW partnership has been set-up to extend a popular cycling and walking route to Keighley and Denholme.

MPs from across the political divide, and town and parish councils, have voiced their backing for an expansion of the Great Northern Railway Trail.

The first section of the route, between Cullingworth and Harecroft, opened in 2005.

Then seven years later, a link from Thornton to Queensbury was created.

Now the body driving the initiative, the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group, is looking to the next stage.

It wants an extension of the trail from Cullingworth to Keighley and from Harecroft to Denholme.

The existing route, covering about three miles, is used by thousands of people a year.

Keighley Labour MP John Grogan and his Conservative counterpart in Shipley, Philip Davies, both support expanding the trail.

Mr Grogan said the venture would “help put Keighley on the cycling and walking map in Yorkshire”.

He added: “With so much cycling interest in the Tour de Yorkshire, the trail would become an iconic route that would help boost tourism and the local economy.”

Mr Davies said the scheme would help people to improve their health.

“Getting people outdoors to exercise will help with health issues that could be prevented if there is the opportunity to walk or cycle safely,” he said. “The trail does that for my constituents.

“I welcome this initiative and look forward to seeing it completed.”

The Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group says the creation of the route to date has also saved three railway viaducts, including the well-known Hewenden structure, from possible demolition.

Jeff McQuillan, the group’s chairman, said: “Cycling was once laughed at as being unattractive because of the hilly terrain of Bradford district, but attitudes have changed significantly.

“Now communities are pushing for this kind of greenway to improve the quality of life for many people.

“Trails like this help improve the health of local communities through walking and cycling, enable people to travel safely to work and school, and provide an educational resource for schools exploring wildlife along the green corridor, access to Bronte country and an appreciation of local railway heritage.

“With poor air quality and noise pollution affecting the quality of life for many people in towns, the trail offers a quiet, off-road, sustainable hard-surfaced path that has proved extremely popular with local people where it is already opened.”

He added that Keighley and Denholme town councils and Wilsden, Cullingworth and Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury parish councils had all given their backing.