COUNCIL bosses breathed a huge sigh of relief as plans for a cornerstone bridge across the River Severn in Worcester were eventually backed.

There were fears Worcestershire County Council could lose out on millions of pounds of crucial government funding if councillors did not approve its plans to build a new walking and cycle bridge across the River Severn in Worcester site this year.

The council’s planning committee unanimously approved proposals on Tuesday (September 28) after a decision was deferred in July over concerns the bridge between Gheluvelt Park and the former Kepax landfill site would not link up well with existing and planned walking and cycling routes.

At the planning meeting at County Hall on Tuesday, Cllr Tom Wells, who had pushed for a deferment on the plan in July, said he made no apologies for putting off a decision and it was “entirely reasonable” to ask for more information on the county’s walking and cycling links before committing to the bridge.

He said the multi-million-pound work was a “very important piece of the jigsaw” in the county’s walking and cycling plans and was relieved it had only taken two months for the proposals to be brought in front of planners again.

In July, bosses at the county council said they had “grave concerns” the delay could result in the authority losing millions of pounds in government funding with officers fearing that reconfiguring the plans could take up to a year to complete.

“Of course, I’m going to support this because the key issues have been addressed,” he said.

“I think this will act as a catalyst to provide additional cycling routes in the city and that is great news.”

Cllr Wells said the issue of walking and cycling had been “raised up the flagpole” in recent months and that whilst new routes may come later rather than sooner, “there was nothing wrong with being aspirational.”

“I think it’s the government indicating that active travel is the key player now and is likely to provide funding for those types of initiatives rather than just roadbuilding,” he added.

Tory councillor Peter Griffiths said the extra information on the council’s walking and cycling plans meant the picture was now “much clearer” and was happy to support the proposals.

At the last planning meeting in July, Cllr Griffiths queried whether the city had enough paths and cycling routes to support the “ambitious” proposals.

“It’s important that if we have a key piece of active travel infrastructure here then we should be looking at the wider implications and mapping them out and signing them so that people will use it,” he said.

Cllr Kit Taylor, who said in July he feared the council would be building a “bridge to nowhere” if it was not connected properly to walking and cycling routes, left the meeting before the proposals were discussed on Tuesday (September 29) and did not vote.