The future of a six-mile stretch of disused railway in Upper Wensleydale is to be discussed by Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
A report on a possible ‘Hawes-Garsdale Multi-User Route’ will recommend Members support the principle of creating a bridleway – which would be suitable for horse riders, cyclists, walkers and those with limited mobility – along the scenic former railway line.
The report, to be made public on Monday in advance of the National Park Authority meeting on Tuesday 29 March, also recommends carrying out a survey to determine the level of public support for the proposal.
The railway closed in 1959 and there is currently no public access along it between Hawes and Garsdale.
The current Yorkshire Dales National Park Local Plan supports the reinstatement of a railway along the route, as well as a parallel recreational path. However, a feasibility study carried out on behalf of the National Park Authority and Richmondshire District Council has concluded there is room only for a railway or multi-user route, not both.
The National Park Authority’s Member Champion for Recreation Management Nick Cotton said: “Through the National Park Management Plan we have a shared commitment with local councils and other local groups to create another family-friendly cycling route in the National Park. This has a number of advantages, but the main one for me is to allow children and their families to get off a busy road and cycle in a safe and secure environment.
“The former branch line between Garsdale Station and Hawes Station, which is now the Dales Countryside Museum, has been one of the suggestions where such a route might be developed. The next steps are for the Authority to discuss the matter and, if it is supportive of progressing it, to seek the views of the public.”
The report to the NPA meeting will be published here, alongside the other meeting papers, on Monday.
Questions & Answers
What is a multi-user route?
A multi-user route in this instance is a bridleway, suitable for horse riders, cyclists, walkers and those with limited mobility. Three new multi-user routes have already been established at Malham Tarn, Greenfield Forest, and the Swale Trail in Swaledale.
Why is this being proposed?
The current and previous National Park Management Plans (B9) have included a commitment to create family-friendly cycling routes:
Promote and encourage responsible cycling by supporting world class events that showcase the National Park, enabling the development of four ‘cycle hubs’, and creating at least one further family-friendly cycling route by 2024.
Upper Wensleydale has the obvious potential to develop further as a cycle hub, with the Buttertubs and the Pennine Bridleway National Trail close by. The area would also benefit from a family-friendly route and enhance the offer for mixed ability parties. It would:
- provide a safe user-friendly environment for children and others to experience cycling and horse riding away from the tarmacked road network, where the roads can be either too busy or narrow or steep and challenging.
- enhance the tourism offer to the active family market, and in doing so boost the local economy. There is a plethora of examples of these popular trails in the UK e.g. the Camel Trail (Cornwall), Rutland Water or the Peak District Trails. The Dales is sadly lacking in such facilities.
- attract younger people and families to come and live in the National Park by providing opportunity to make the most of the active lifestyle offered.
- enable people, whatever their fitness, to benefit from the health and well-being offered by recreational activity and cycling in the National Park, and the associated connection with their natural environment.
But you’ve previously supported the reinstatement of the Wensleydale Railway and protected it from development for many years. Why this and not the railway?
The former Wensleydale Railway line has been protected from development by the Authority for many years. The current Yorkshire Dales National Park Local Plan policy states:
BE6 – Development that would prejudice the reinstatement of the Wensleydale Railway, including operational land and station facilities, will not be permitted.
…Reinstatement of the line in stages will be permissible, if it is capable of being made reversible in the event that it is not successful. If the reconstruction of the line could also deliver a parallel recreational trail, then the joint infrastructure benefits would be much greater. The National Park Authority will therefore want to safeguard and investigate this possibility in parallel to the Wensleydale line.
In November 2019, the National Park Authority and Richmondshire District Council awarded a contract to consultants Arup to investigate the feasibility, likely cost and economic impact of developing a family-friendly multi-user route alongside the Wensleydale Railway line from Hawes to Garsdale.
The feasibility study was completed in July 2020. However, it was not made public at this time because in the same month the Upper Wensleydale Railway (UWR), a separate ‘breakaway body’ from the Wensleydale Railway Association, applied to the Department of Transport’s ‘Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund’ to reinstate the section of the railway line from Hawes to Garsdale Station.
The UWR’s bid was unsuccessful. The UWR decided to reapply and, in case the Arup feasibility study provided any useful information, it was made available for UWR’s re-bid. In November 2021, the UWR learnt that the re-bid had also been unsuccessful.
From the feasibility study it’s clear the options for the former railway line between Hawes and Garsdale Station are now either to continue with the effort to re-instate the railway or to look at the possibility of developing a multi-user bridleway route.
Sadly, with the recent failure of two successive bids, the chance of reinstating the railway now seems very unlikely. We are therefore seeking views from the public to understand their demand for a multi-user bridleway route.
Why can’t a multi-user route sit alongside the existing railway?
The 2020 Arup feasibility study investigated the development of a family-friendly multi-user route alongside the Wensleydale Railway line from Hawes to Garsdale.
The original railway line was single track between Hawes and Garsdale and is approximately 4.5 metres wide. The feasibility study found that this is not wide enough to accommodate both a railway and a multi-user route in future.
Widening the route would be expensive due to the structures along the route, as well as the route being in a cutting or on an embankment at various points along its length.
What happens if your survey reveals widespread support for a multi-user route between Hawes and Garsdale?
Assuming support from the public, we would begin discussion with local and regional partners to look at ways to develop the scheme.
What happens if your survey reveals a lack of support for a multi-user route between Hawes and Garsdale?
In the event there is a lack of support for a multi-user route between Hawes and Garsdale, we will not do any further work on this scheme. We are already working with partners elsewhere on possible routes in and on the edge of the National Park.
Will you have to introduce compulsory purchase orders to enable the development of a multi-user route between Hawes and Garsdale?
No – compulsory purchase orders do not relate to the creation of a public right of way because landownership remains unchanged. Instead, a legal right of way would be established over the land, either by completion of a Creation Agreement or a Creation Order. It is likely that several Creation Orders will be required to establish the route as a bridleway.
Under the Environment Act 1995, all National Park Authorities have powers to make Creation Orders, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has experience of doing so through implementing the Pennine Bridleway in the National Park.
The Authority would need to be satisfied that the statutory tests set out in the legislation (Highways Act 1980) for Creation Orders were met.
Compensation is payable to a landowner if the Order is confirmed and the landowner can establish that the value of their interest in the land is depreciated, or that they have suffered damage by being disturbed in their enjoyment of the land as a consequence of the Creation Order.
How much will this cost, and where will the money come from?
The high-level budget estimate for re-opening the route as a bridleway is between £4.6 million and £5.13 million, with the economic benefits forecast to be in the region of £1.02 million per annum.
Funding options will be explored with local and regional partners, if there is public support for the scheme.
Can I download a copy of the feasibility study findings?
Yes, you can download that here.
What happens next?
Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will meet to discuss the development of a multi-user route between Hawes and Garsdale at its meeting in Leyburn on Tuesday 29 March 2022.
Should Members indicate their support, in principle, for the multi-user route, then public views will be sought via an online survey which will be live from 29 March to 22 April 2022.
A summary report of the responses will be prepared and presented to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and subsequently made public.