Cyclists, walkers and horse riders will be celebrating news of a £558,000 award for all-weather surfacing on the Downs Link.

The council’s successful European Union funding bid will enable surface improvements along five sections of the route.

The old, disused railway and public bridleway runs from Guildford to Shoreham and connects with the North Downs Way and South Downs Way National Trails. These sections are currently harder to use in the winter due to water logging and condition assessments and bridleway users highlighted the need for improvement.

The new, unbound surface will drain more easily and be suitable for walking, cycling and horse-riding, including in winter, boosting visitor numbers and, in turn, the rural economy.

The £558,000 is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which aims to develop rural tourism by encouraging more people to visit, stay longer and benefit the local, rural economy. The Brexit situation will have no impact on the award (see also notes to editors).

Deborah Urquhart, county council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “This funding is superb news, enabling us to improve the Downs Link so we can do even more to encourage sustainable transport and provide a boost for the county’s rural economy, too.

“It comes at the start of national Bike Week and just days after we launched our online climate change campaign (see notes to editors). The improved off-road route will provide an excellent, family-friendly, free facility so people can get outside and enjoy the benefits of the West Sussex countryside.

“Once completed, the upgraded route and interlinking towns, villages and businesses will be promoted to attract visitors from outside of the usual tourism season of May to October and benefit the local economy.”

The promotion and marketing will be coordinated through the Experience West Sussex tourism initiative, which is led by the Experience West Sussex Partnership – a jointly funded tourism partnership formed by the councils of West Sussex.

The works are due to be delivered in two phases, over 2019 and 2020, with a November 2020 deadline.

Bike Week: some cycling facts:

• West Sussex Highways has provided a total of 5.8km of cycle path in the 2018-2019 financial year (exceeding the 5.75km target).

• You can find maps of on and off-road cycle routes online here online cycling information

• You can also use our Cycle Journey Planner to find the best way to get around the county, and beyond, on two wheels. You can choose a fast route, a quiet route or a balance of both.

• See walking and cycling strategy for lots more information about the county council’s approach to sustainable transport

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For further information please contact the news desk on 0330 222 8090 or email pressoffice@westsussex.gov.uk.

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