A senior Carmarthenshire councillor said he was confident the council could spend nearly £17 million of UK Government money on a new cycle path by the end of March 2025. Councillor Edward Thomas, whose cabinet brief includes transport, was responding to a question about the Towy Valley path from a resident, Tara-Jane Sutcliffe, at a meeting of full council.

She said the £16.7 million Levelling Up grant from Westminster should be spent by the end of this month unless a deadline extension was granted, and asked what contingency plans the council had if it couldn't complete the path in time. Cllr Thomas said the council had been granted an extension, meaning it would have to spend the £16.7 million by the end of March next year rather than March 2024.

He said: "This is an important project, and we are confident in its delivery and our ability to complete the work required to access the funding awarded to us within the specific deadline." For the latest Carmarthenshire news, sign up to our newsletter here

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The 16-mile Towy Valley path from Carmarthen to Llandeilo was proposed many years ago, and cost estimates have risen since. A short section has been completed between Carmarthen Museum, Abergwili, and White Mill, but further work stalled over a lack of funding before the £16.7 million grant was announced in October 2021.

Cllr Thomas said the council was awaiting the outcome of an inquiry into a compulsory purchase order it made to acquire land along a long stretch between White Mill and Ffairfach, by Llandeilo. He said the inquiry took place last November and that the council had written to Minister for Climate Change Julie James to emphasise the need for a quick decision. Compulsory purchase orders allow a local authority to acquire land without the consent of the owner, and follow negotiations between the two parties. You can read about one landowner's anger here about the compulsory purchase order plans.

Cllr Thomas said the council had provided £1.86 million of match-funding, which wasn't time-bound, and that if the compulsory purchase order decision went in its favour that it could award concurrent packages of work to speed up the path's completion. The Independent ward member for Llandeilo also said that work on a section of the path at Nantgaredig was under way.

The cycle path, he said, would boost visitor numbers, provide links to key employment and health sites, and potentially generate some £4.4 million per year for the local economy. Ms Sutcliffe pressed Cllr Thomas on whether any contingency plans were in place if the March 2025 deadline was missed, to which he referred her to his previous answer. He added: "We remain confident we will complete this project and that we have got the funds."