BARNSLEY town centre will be linked to Royston through a three-metre-wide cycle path on a disused railway line after plans were approved by the council’s planning board.

At the start of 2019, the Sheffield City Region adopted a new transport strategy which set out the desire for an ‘ambitious and transformational’ programme.

The following March they were awarded £166m in funding, with then South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis allocating half to active travel schemes across the county.

As part of this process, Barnsley Council was allocated funding for a collection of programmes designed to bring improvements to active travel infrastructure and bus priority.

This scheme, the A61 in the town centre to Royston via Smithies Lane, will provide a segregated and off-road active travel route between the two areas.

The cycle and footpath will be 3.6km long and there are aspirations for further uninterrupted travel links connecting Royston to Goldthorpe via the town centre.

It’s hoped the new path will support the council’s economic ambitions as well as improving the fitness of residents across the borough.

The plans are expected to ease congestion on the A61.

A council report states: “Barnsley’s local plan has indicated significant economic expansion up to 2033, with growth to be located at either end of the A61 corridor.

“Much of this growth is now coming forward, consisting of the redevelopment of Barnsley town centre and significant housing growth in Royston.

“Without mitigation, congestion levels on the A61 can only worsen leading to further declines in journey times and reliability to the detriment of connectivity.

“This reduction in connectivity will have an economic impact by restricting access to employment opportunities and restricting the area’s economic potential.

“The proposed active travel link therefore seeks to ensure that the A61 corridor remains competitive and will allow future growth arising from changes in housing and redevelopment across the area to be facilitated.

“This will support the council’s wider economic ambitions for the district by boosting productivity and increasing living standards.”

The site for the proposed footpath is currently the route of a disused railway line which runs between Athersley and Royston.

The report added: “Barnsley also suffers from high levels of social exclusion and poor health, resulting from historically high levels of inactivity and obesity.

“The provision of an active travel link aims to improve connectivity to social facilities, encourage the uptake of physical activity and remove one of the main barriers that residents have for participating in active travel.

“The need for the scheme is also determined by environmental considerations.

“In September 2019, the council declared a climate emergency, which committed the council to be net carbon zero by 2040, with the borough by 2045.

“Transport currently contributes to 26 per cent of all carbon emissions in Barnsley, which needs to be reduced if these targets are to be met.”

Plans were approved by the council’s planning board earlier this week.