THE planned multi-million pound regeneration of Skipton Railway Station and surrounding area has been hailed an exciting opportunity not to be missed.

Following the awarding in 2017 of £5 million from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Craven councillors have now agreed the basics of a masterplan.

And although the plan itself - a vital part of the far- reaching Skipton Employment and Housing Growth project - is expected to take a year to put together, councillors have been told there is nothing to stop projects coming forward in the meantime.

Council leader Richard Foster told last week's Policy Committee that the £5 million should be seen as 'seed funding', and if handled right could see up to £40 million being invested in the area.

"We must not miss this chance," he said, adding that he believed the area of Skipton had been undervalued for a long time with just "large supermarkets dumped on it."

He also acknowledged that better use could be made of large expanses of flat car park areas and that decking was a possibility.

Cllr Simon Myers said the would include the re-development of the railway station, the upgrade of Engine Shed Lane and Ings Lane and the provision of pedestrian routes.

The canal towpath from Broughton Road to the town centre will also be upgraded and the council's Engine Shed Lane depot will be made into business space, he said.

"This is a very exciting and far reaching project but it is very important that we have a masterplan and that money is properly spent," he said.

Cllr Robert Heseltine said redevelopment was an 'exceptionally exciting' opportunity for both the current and future generations of Skipton people, not just for quality of life, but also for employment opportunities.

There were also opportunities for the various sports clubs based at Sandylands, and cultural benefits for Skipton and the hinterlands.

He also urged a considered approach to the use of land, much of it being large, flat areas of car parking, and suggested decked car parks.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan said it was a really significant project that would have a 'transformational effect'.

"We want to try and achieve something that is aesthetically attractive, but also practical. It would be good if we could make the railway station more attractive, at the moment it has a car park in the front of it," he said.

Cllr Chris Rose welcomed the regeneration of the area and hoped the needs of pedestrians and cyclists would be taken into account.

More people needed to be persuaded to use the railway station, which she described as currently 'shabby' while railway bridges were 'gruesome'.

The masterplan will focus on Skipton Railway Station, Sandylands Businesses Centre and Carleton New Road industrial estate, and secondly, on Cavendish Street car park, together with land to its east and west.

It is suggested a landscaped area is created in front of the railway station and a possible second access on the south side.

The plan site will also include Skipton Fire Station and the site of the now demolished LMS Social Club, next to the railway station.

In a report to the committee, members were told an essential element of preparation for the plan would be to make sure there was extensive engagement and consultation with people - both with members of the public and stakeholders.

"The masterplan will set out a strategic plan. This comprehensive approach will allow all development opportunities and assets to be looked at in a holistic manner. The masterplan will allow the council to clearly articulate what can be delivered, when and how," it said.

The plan will be an 'important tool' in marketing the town to potential investors and for the securing of additional, external funding.

David Smurthwaite, strategic planning manager, said there was nothing to stop regeneration happening before the completion of the masterplan.

"We can make it as easy as possible for potential investors to develop what the masterplan says," he said.

The masterplan is part of the Skipton Employment and Housing Growth project.

It also includes the upgrade of Engine Shed Lane and Ings Lane, and the creation of a new road linking the end of Ings Lane with the first phase of the Wyvern Park development and the A629 Skipton bypass.

Pedestrian routes from the railway station will also be improved and the upgrade of the canal towpath from Broughton Road to the town centre, which is due to start by the end of May and is scheduled to take 12 weeks. The project will also see remediation of the council waste depot on engine shed lane in readiness for the development of business space.

Approval of the masterplan preparation is due to go to the full council on February 26.