BUSINESSES have thrown their weight behind plans to deliver one of Scotland’s biggest cycling and walking infrastructure projects which would allow them to tap into a share of an annual £345 million.

It is expected to pave the way for projects around rural Scotland under Scottish Government plans to reduce pressure on country roads such as those on the North Coast 500 and enhance routes such as the Caledonian Way.

Campaigners have been bidding for 14 years to secure a four mile off-road pedestrian and cycle path, away from the Gullane to Drem road linking the two communities.

Now East Lothian Council, backed by Sustrans Scotland, has appointed infrastructure consultants Peter Brett Associates to seek permission from landowners and develop a masterplan for the route.

Read more: Cycle paths plan to bust Highland tourist route jams

Consultants have until the end of May to present path blueprints to the council, and it makes its decision on the move.

Housing giant CALA Homes has already backed the new cycle path in what is the last hurdle for the long-running project, say campaigners.

Iain Monk, Drem/Gullane Path Campaign spokesman, said: “High quality cycling and walking infrastructure is not only good for health and the environment, it also helps attract visitors that get cash registers ringing in local bars, shops and restaurants.

“Pedal power generates up to £345m annually for the Scottish economy, and we believe businesses in East Lothian’s coastal villages can exploit thriving and lucrative cycle tourism.

Read more: Scotland’s 10 best cycle routes

“Businesses we have spoken to are in absolutely no doubt about the positive economic impact of the proposed four mile path. Given its potential scale, we believe this could be one of Scotland’s biggest cycling and walking infrastructure projects.”

HeraldScotland:

Dominic Campanile, general manager at The Old Clubhouse bar and restaurant, Gullane, said: “We have many customers from Drem, who will, in the summer, walk or cycle to Gullane.

“I can only imagine how potentially dangerous this can be, especially in the summer months when the main road is busier than usual.”

Read more: First glimpse of safe cycle path as right of way in sight after 13-year campaign

Heulwen Hardie, managing director of the Old Smiddy craft shop in the village, said: “We are reliant on trade from visitors and tourists, many of whom arrive from Edinburgh by train into Drem.

“It is vital that the infrastructure is in place to safely reach Gullane by foot or bike without having to negotiate the dangerous main road.”

Alan Rae, of Fidra Fine Art Gallery, said: “The link between Gullane and Drem is crying out for a safe cycle path both as a safe commuter option to the train station for the growing population of Gullane, but also as a recreational route for those from further afield to access the beautiful countryside of East Lothian.”

Under government plans, a network of paths would be built across across Scotland “to ease the ever-increasing visitor pressure” on tourist routes.

Transform Scotland, has said Scotland needs a dedicated off-road system for cyclists.