A NATIONAL project to create cycling and walking routes, including three schemes in County Durham and North Yorkshire, has won the £50m People's Lottery competition.

The £140m Sustrans Connect2project beat three shortlisted entries to win 42 per cent of 286,000 votes in a televised poll.

The money will be shared between 79 schemes across the UK to improve environmentally friendly travel.

At Brompton-on-Swale, near Richmond, the money will help to convert a former military railway bridge into a bridleway.

The Bridge the Gap scheme was drawn up by the parish council and other local authorities and community groups.

Frank Broughton, of Brompton-on-Swale Parish Council, said: "It is fantastic that Connect2 was the winning bid.

"There is still an awful lot of work to be done, from laying the bridge decking to creating new stretches of bridlepath to link existing rights of way, but soon Bridge the Gap will have made a massive difference to Brompton-on-Swale and the surrounding area."

Money will also go towards reopening Belmont viaduct, near Durham City, as a pedestrian, cycling and bridlepath across the River Wear near Kepier Woods.

A share of the winnings will also go to a project headed by Stockton Borough Council to create walking and cycle links between Ingleby Barwick, Yarm, Eaglescliffe and Thornaby. The scheme includes two new bridges across the rivers Leven and Tees.

Plans for a bridleway between Bilton and Ripley, near Harrogate, will also receive cash.

Funding will be transferred to green transport charity Sustrans over the next five years.

Sustrans chief executive John Grimshaw said: "There are 79 towns and settlements which are just going to be changed, I think, out of all recognition.

"Our ambition is that, when you wake up in the morning, walking and cycling will be so obviously an easy way of going to work and the shops and to school."

The Connect2 project beat bids by the Eden Project, in Cornwall, Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire, and the Black Country Urban Park, to win the televised contest.

Each scheme was showcased on ITV last week before voting phone lines opened on Friday.