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New accessible underpass would connect Fife to Loch Leven

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An ambitious project which will deliver a new, more accessible underpass to connect the famous ‘Sleeping Giant’ path from Fife to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail has received a major funding boost.

Although half of the initiative’s £800,000 price tag has been provisionally set aside, the scheme is still hanging in the balance with a desperate search under way to find the remaining cash.

The current underpass at Loch Leven
The current underpass at Loch Leven

Sustrans has offered to fund 50% of the project’s cost, but Perth and Kinross Council has received a letter co-signed by a stakeholder group asking for financial backing for the popular project.

Stakeholders include The Rural Access Committee for Kinross-Shire (TRACKS), the Kinross-shire Partnership, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Sustrans, the disabled charity Homelands Trust-Fife, RSPB Scotland and local ward councillor Willie Robertson.

Mr Robertson said: “We are most grateful for the provisional offer from Sustrans.

“However, their offer is dependent on sourcing £381,775 of match funding and completing the project this financial year, so it’s imperative that the remaining money is found in the next few months.

“We have written to the Perth and Kinross Council to ask for their support and are actively seeking other funding partners”.

Perth and Kinross Council owns and maintains the site’s current corrugated iron tunnel and steps, which are part of the Perth & Kinross Core Path Network.

The tunnel, which was constructed in 1982, can only be accessed by steep steps on either side of the B9097 road.

This is an obstacle for cyclists, families with pushchairs and less mobile members of the public, while completely restricting access for wheelchair and mobility scooter users.

The proposed project aims to remove these access barriers by constructing a new underpass that would incorporate gentle slopes for wheelchair and mobility scooter users and provide unimpeded access for cyclists and families with young children in pushchairs.

Recent research by Sustrans has shown the economic value of leisure cycling on the National Cycle Network was worth £345 million in 2015, and Sustrans hope the project would bring some of these benefits to Loch Leven – as well as helping more visitors and staff to access RSPB Scotland Loch Leven by bike.

Replacing the current steps and corrugated iron tunnel with a more accessible underpass will allow better and safer access between the two trails for cyclists, families with pushchairs and less-mobile members of the public.

The project will also, for the first time, enable people with wheelchairs and mobility scooters to cross the B9097 safely and make it possible for RSPB Scotland to support the Loch Leven Heritage Trail free mobility scooter scheme by becoming its third base station.

Funding is being sought from a number of other sources and there will be a project exhibition on July 7 for stakeholders and potential funders to find out more about the proposals.

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