MONMOUTHSHIRE council's planning department has been accused of jeopardising plans for the Wye Valley Cycle Path after the project lost the £50 million of Lottery funding awarded to it, because the authority has yet to decide on planning permission.

Supporters of Sustrans' plans to convert the derelict Wye Valley Railway into a community path between Chepstow and Tintern have expressed dismay over delays in the planning process which has resulted in the loss of Lottery funding.

Following a public vote in December 2007, the Big Lottery Fund awarded £50 million to UK charity Sustrans to help establish sustainable travel links between local communities.

In order to receive the funding projects had to be completed within five years, but officers from MCC's planning department have yet to advise their planning committee on the application, nearly nine months after the latest application was first lodged.

Clive Shakesheff, of Chepstow's Friends of the Earth, criticised the council saying its delay in making a decision, which has resulted in the loss of funding, was 'scandalous'.

He said: "The overwhelming majority of people want this cycle path and the fact that MCC has shilly-shallied around and lost Sustrans this money is intolerable and frankly, scandalous."

Jeremy Cowen, spokesperson for Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling, said: "As a result of these delays, the Lottery money is frustratingly no longer available as Sustrans cannot feasibly complete the project within the five year funding window.

"This deals a massive blow to the scheme, which has enjoyed overwhelming local support. However, whilst this particular funding has been lost, there is still great potential to make the scheme happen so securing planning permission from Monmouthshire County Council is the next step we are eager to see."

MCC's planning applications manager, Phil Thomas said: "We are still waiting for further information from Sustrans in relation to biodiversity impacts of the proposed cyclepath/ new river bridge, clarification over traffic generation and parking proposals and further clarification of the landscape impact of the bridge and cyclepath ramp."

In a further development, members of Brockweir Cycleway Concern, a group opposing the project, recently applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the corresponding Forest of Dean District Council planning decision, which granted planning permission for the path in November 201, but their application was thrown out.