COMMUNITY groups in Ayrshire are being encouraged to apply to a new £1.5 million fund to improve the area's network of footpaths.

The Ian Findlay Path Fund, managed by Scotland’s walking charity Paths for All, will enable more people to walk, wheel or cycle for their everyday journeys to improve air quality, reduce CO2 emissions and improve physical health and mental wellbeing.

Paths for All says the fund will support path management projects that improve the accessibility and resilience of existing paths between homes, community services, active travel routes and public transport facilities or connections.

Community groups, third sector organisations and charities wanting to improve the accessibility of their local path networks are eligible to apply for between £10,000 to £100,000.

Activities supported could include the removal of barriers, steps, ramps or vegetation; linking community destinations by filling in path connectivity gaps; tackling flooded sections of paths to increase climate change resilience; adding lighting to make paths safer, especially at night or in winter; improving sight lines; and upgrading desire lines.

Rona Gibb, senior manager at Paths for All, said: "I would encourage community groups, development trusts and charities to think about the paths in their communities that people use for everyday short journeys that need improving to apply to our new Ian Findlay Path Fund.

"Communities know the desire lines, muddy tracks, pot holed steps or chicanes that are stopping people from easily walking, wheeling or cycling for their short journeys.

"If you know of paths that need to be made accessible for people using wheelchairs, walking aids or adaptive cycles then get in touch.

"Scotland needs more attractive paths to make short journeys easy and enjoyable. We want local path networks to be part of the way people travel."

The fund was first announced in March as part of a co-operation agreement where the Scottish Government is investing £150m in active travel in 2022/23. 

The government says it's also committed to investing at least £320m, or 10 per cent of the transport budget, in 'active travel' schemes by 2024/25.