A community's dream to create a footpath linking its village with one just over a mile away is faltering after the proposal was snubbed by Cumbria County Council.

Parish councillors have given their enthusiastic and unanimous backing to the plan to build a new footpath linking Caldbeck with nearby Hesket Newmarket, with the project being paid for by a £100,000 donation from a local benefactor.

They say the footpath would enhance road safety, boost tourism, and open up the route to walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users.

Despite huge local support, the scheme has ground to a halt after two of the ten landowners affected withdrew their support and Cumbria County Council refused to step in.

The Council could break the impasse because it has the legal power to make a Footpath Creation Order, which if opposed could lead to a public inquiry, and possible legal costs of up to £30,000.

Yet officials have so far refused to offer any formal support.

Parish councillors say their plan has met with "negative" attitude from council officers, who have told them that the council has a power but not a duty to make an order and that other work has higher priority.

"We're very disappointed with the county council's response," said parish council chairman Norman Atkinson.

"We want to see a Footpath Creation Order because of the long-term benefit this footpath would create. Landowners would be compensated, and there's a possibility that the Council might have to invest £25,000 or £30,000.

"But it would be a good investment in the community, and there is already £100,000 of investment from our benefactor.

"The footpath would run alongside the country road between Caldbeck and Hesket Newmarket, which is dangerous to walk along as there's no grass verge to step onto.

"Vehicles often travel along there at 60mph.

"We've had a lot of near misses. On a summer's evening, it would be lovely to be able to stroll from one village to the other, having a pint in the Oddfellows Arms at Caldbeck and then at the The Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket.

"This is the most direct route between the two villages."

Fellow parish councillor and Caldbeck resident Tim Cartmell said a county council Footpath Creation Order was now the only practical way to achieve the project.

"In our parish plan survey in 2005, 173 out of 200 people put the footpath as their top priority for things to happen in the parish," he said.

"The new footpath would create a safe route between the two villages for walkers, wheelchair users, people with prams and cyclists. But we can't do anything without the County Council's support.

"They need to make a Footpath Creation Order."

In a letter to the county council's chief executive Katherine Fairclough, Caldbeck Parish Council's clerk Simon Smith states that councillors sensed a negative attitude to the plan from officers from the outset.

He urged the authority to work in partnership on the scheme with the parish council and the Lake District National Park, which was willing to provide staff and resources but needed the county council, as the highways authority, to confirm its support in writing.

The letter adds that the footpath plan has support from the area's three MPs, Rory Stewart, Sue Hayman, and Trudy Harrison.

The letter adds: "There is a real opportunity for the county council, Lake District National Park and parish council to work collaboratively to create a worthwhile asset, at minimal cost to the public sector given the generous gift to fund the footpath's construction.

"But the county council has to be firmly on board, fully supportive and prepared to fund legal costs in the event of an inquiry."

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: "The proposed Caldbeck-Hesket Newmarket footpath was discussed at a recent meeting of Allerdale Local Committee, which endorsed the officer decision not to progress with a creation order.

"The county council has no statutory obligation or responsibility to progress a creation order.

"The council’s countryside access teams are still focusing their efforts on flood recovery, and the council does not have the resources or staff capacity to progress a creation order for the footpath at this time.

"The proposed route does not have the support of all affected landowners – two out of 10 are objecting, meaning that a creation order for the footpath would present a significant risk of legal challenge through a public inquiry."

Locals have started a petition to support their footpath plan. It can be found at http://bit.ly/2Bbty5b

More than 500 people signed it within a few days.