A £10 MILLION bridge which holds the key to developing York's "teardrop" site could be built in 2016, city leaders have said.

Funding for an access route to the York Central site behind the city's railway station - which may eventually house more than 1,000 new homes as well as offices, shops, restaurants and a hotel - was agreed by City of York Council last December, and the authority has now laid out the timeline for the scheme.

Proposals for the construction process are expected to emerge shortly, with the search for a firm to carry out the scheme beginning next year. Designs would be drawn up in spring 2016 and building work would begin later that year.

The 26-hectare York Central site is seen as vital to York's economic future, but progress ground to a halt in 2009. The council has said developing the land will create more than 8,000 full-time jobs and 6,700 construction roles, which would boost York's coffers by £600 million a year.

The public funding for the bridge - which may not be a permanent structure but will allow construction traffic to enter the landlocked development site - has come from the council's Economic Infrastructure Fund. The authority entered into a land swap with Network Rail, which bought a council-owned site next to Holgate Park and sold land next to York Carriageworks to the council for the bridge and access routes from the A59. The first stages of the York Central project may include up to 400 homes.

Darren Richardson, the council's director of city and environmental services said York Central was the city's development "flagship" and has "huge potential" because of its location and transport links. He said it would help the housebuilding market, provide jobs and have a "knock-on impact in the wider prosperity of the city".

He said the council was working with Network Rail over financial and legal arrangements for finding bidders to design and build the bridge, saying: "We would hope to be in the process of the design work in spring 2016, which will include various technical stages, and actual construction would follow after those steps.

"It is the council's intention to set the detail and other aspects out in a Memorandum of Understanding, which we are currently developing with Network Rail, and we plan to have this in place by summer."