A MUCH-needed link between two communities will be developed as a “shovel ready” project – despite no funding having been identified yet.

A £5.5 million plan to build a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A629 Aire Valley trunk road, which separates Steeton and Silsden, has been given the go-ahead at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

No funding source has yet been identified for the scheme, but members of the authority’s investment committee said it was important the plans were ready to go as soon as money was made available.

Members were told that pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross the trunk road were currently taking their lives in their hands.

Melanie Corcoran, the authority’s director of delivery, said: “Steeton and Silsden are approximately a mile apart, but walking or cycling between the two is extremely difficult.

“There is a dual carriageway between them – four lanes with traffic going up to 70mph.

“There is also a railway line, the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal separating the two. This makes it difficult to promote cycling or walking between the areas.”

The authority had been awarded £700,000 by the Department for Transport to look at improving links – and the preferred option was a bridge over the road that would be large enough for pedestrians and cyclists to use.

Mrs Corcoran said: “This would eliminate a key barrier between the communities, with 100 per cent segregation from the highway, which will lead to a reduction in accidents. We believe it will lead to a 20 per cent increase in walking and 50 per cent increase in cycling between the two communities.”

The committee voted to release £490,000 from the initial Department for Transport funding pot to draw-up a full business case for the plan.

Mrs Corcoran said: “The funding for the scheme stops at that point. But hopefully we’ll be in a position where we have a shovel ready scheme when any funding does come in.”

The bridge would be built over the western arm of the A629 roundabout, and a pedestrian and cycle path would be created from the bridge to the canal and Steeton and Silsden railway station.

The bridge will be five metres wide to comply with Government guidance for designing high-quality, safe cycle infrastructure.

Over 1,100 people responded to a survey on the plan late last year, with 94 per cent of respondents saying current facilities for cycling and walking between Steeton and Silsden were ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. Seventy-four per cent of respondents said they would walk and 56 per cent cycle between Steeton and Silsden more frequently if facilities were improved.