The quality of cycling in the county is set to move up a gear after news of an investment drive worth millions of pounds.

The South Downs National Park Authority has been given more than £5 million from the Government to create new cycle routes - and rejuvenate existing ones – in and around the Downs.

The money will be used to create around 55km of new routes across the park, plus fund extensions to established routes in West and East Sussex.

The scheme will also focus on improving access to the National Park from major railway stations, including Brighton.

The lucrative pot is a share of a national investment programme worth £94 million, announced and described by David Cameron yesterday as “the biggest single injection of cash for the country" for cycling.

The news has been welcomed by local cycling groups, including the Sussex Nomads Cycling Club.

Richard Burnett, club secretary of the Nomads, said the investment was “great news.”

He said: “New routes will be great but the authority needs to make sure they are maintained year-on-year to ensure safety of riders.

“It will be no good creating new cycleways without having an intention to keep it useable for years to come. This includes cutting grass where need be and resurfacing routes where they deteroriate, especially in wet and wintry weather.

“But from the sounds of it, it’s definitely great news. We would encourage the authority to get in contact with us to see if we can suggest areas for investment.”

The full investment figure of £5.1 million will be made up of £3.8 million from the Department of Transport and £1.3 million from local contributions.

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said the investment was a great success for lovers of the South Downs.

xhead He said: “The South Downs is England’s most visited and most densely populated National Park and this investment is designed to provide a high quality cycling experience for cyclists of all abilities, and to complement and give access to the existing network of advisory and off-road routes.

“The National Park Authority has many plans to create new and safer routes, both for commuters and for people cycling for pleasure. Now we have the money to put those plans into practice.

“We will be working closely with the local highways authorities and other organisations to take full advantage of this major new funding.”

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