A NEW £700,000 cycle route for North Yorkshire has moved a step closer as interest in the sport continues to rise across the county.

The nine-mile cycle route would link Malton and Pickering and a host of tourist attractions and businesses.

The venture was originally expected to cost £1m million but it has now been reduced because money will be saved by using quality crushed stone.

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Ryedale District Council is expected to give £75,000 to fund consultants to take the venture forward. "The project will benefit Ryedale's tourist economy, residents and businesses in return for an upfront investment by the council," said Ryedale's senior specialist Howard Wallis.

The authority will now act as the applicant to the Rural Development Programme for England for grant aid. The application is being treated as a priority because of competition from other schemes.

Head of economy Julian Rudd said "The cycle route will not only link Malton and Pickering, but also with several tourist attractions and holiday accommodation."

He said it was estimated it will be worth £500,000 a year to the local economy and create 12 new jobs annnd added: "It will also aid the current traffic congestion and be of benefit to air quality as more people will be able to cycle to work."

The authority is now working with Ryedale Cycle Forum, North Yorkshire County Council and Sustrans, the national cycling charity to bring the plan to reality by next January.

Mr Rudd said there was growing interest in cycling since the huge success of the Tour de France's Grand Depart in Yorkshire, and the subsequent acclaim for the new Tour de Yorkshire races.

"It will fill missing links between the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route, and those to the North York Moors National Park and the East Coast.

"The Howardian Hills and the National Park provide wonderful opportunities to experience the area's beautiful countryside and this new route will enhance that experience."

Ryedale District Council is also planning to target cycling enthusiasts from mainland Europe who use the North Sea Ferries routes from Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, to Hull.

"There are many hard core cyclists from those regions who bring their own cycle," he said.

The majority of work will be classed as highways projects and therefore not require planning consent - however, a small bridge is required over Costa Beck at Kirby Misperton.