OXFORDSHIRE County Council has outlined its reasons for dropping plans to build a new bike path from a key Government funding bid.

In a lengthy statement the authority said it was still committed to progressing the plan to build the path on the B4044 between Botley and Eynsham but said it wasn't convinced it would help 'unlock' new homes - a key requirement for obtaining the Housing Infrastructure Fund money.

Campaigners who have long said this stretch of road is too dangerous for non-car users reacted with dismay after the plans were pulled from a package of measures aimed at improving transport in west Oxfordshire at the last minute.

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But spokesman Paul Smith said: "Through the process of developing the bid we need to provide evidence all the scheme package elements we seek funding for meet and contribute to the funding criteria. ​

"We were required to provide evidence as to how the B4044 Community Path would unlock new homes which would not otherwise be built without it being in place.

Oxford Mail: Cyclists campaigning for cycle path for B4044 between Eynsham and Oxford..Picture: Damian Halliwell.Date: 13/01/17...

"It is our assessment, that if challenged, we would not be able to adequately demonstrate that it is essential to the delivery of housing at Witney and Eynsham (or elsewhere in Vale of White Horse).

"For this reason the scheme would not meet the Housing Infrastructure Fund criteria. 

"Based on this information the council has taken the difficult decision to remove the B4044 Community Path from the package of measures in the Housing Infrastructure Fund business case."

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Mr Smith added that the council was now looking to find alternative funding to develop the scheme with a view to having a design finalised during the next financial year. 

Campaigners from Bikesafe have previously raised £150,000 and commissioned their own studies and designs to show the 5km path is viable and wouldn't disrupt traffic.

Oxford Mail: Members of the Bike Safe, including Ian Leggett, third from right, wait to join the traffic on the busy B4044 between Botley and Eynsham

Mr Smith said: "Progressing the design now will ensure that a scheme for the B4044 Community Path is ready to submit to future funding opportunities as they arise, where the scheme meets the criteria.

"By having a ‘shovel ready’ scheme, funding opportunities that have short time frames can be applied for, which is often the case with external funding sources. 

"We understand this change of approach will be a disappointment to those who have long campaigned to see the cycle route constructed as soon as possible. Throughout this process we will keep stakeholders engaged and seek their views as the design work progresses."

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Meanwhile campaigners have been writing to council leader Ian Hudspeth to try to get him to change the council's thinking before today's deadline to submit the bid. 

A suggested template letter addressed to Mr Hudspeth said the sender wishes to protest 'in the strongest possible manner' about the decision. 

It adds: "No prior warning of this decision was given to the people who could easily have assisted in overcoming the problem which caused the withdrawal, and so the very people who have worked diligently and professionally with your officers have been betrayed along with their very large supporter base.

Oxford Mail:

"Overall I think this was a bad decision, and will cause harm in the form of increased pollution and congestion. On this evidence it is hard to see how OCC can regain the trust of the large number of local people campaigning for a healthier and safer environment."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said she 'shared the outrage' of cycling groups in light of the decision. 

She added: “It’s clear here that the Tories on the County Council have let so many residents down with this decision – I’m calling on them to put their money where their mouth is and submit a bid to the Government that includes provisions for the B4044 path.

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“I will admit I’m a fair-weather cyclist myself, but I’ve long supported sustainable travel in Oxfordshire, I’ve held debates asked questions and even sit as the Vice-Chair of the APPG on cycling. Oxford has all the potential to be the number one cycling city, but this poor decision is a huge step back.

“Oxford needs safe and direct cycling facilities. My Lib Dem colleagues on the County Council as well as myself in Parliament will be piling on the pressure to get a much-needed U-turn on this clearly ill thought through decision.”