UPDATE: We are very pleased to report that the work to improve the cycle path on the Plym Valley Trail between just north of the tunnel and Clearbrook is now under way. It is hope the work will be completed by the end of the year.
In case you don’t know what is happening, the new path will start a little way up from the southern end of the current path and will follow a new route cut into the hillside which will emerge onto the track which runs behind the houses just before the old track joins the road below the Skylark pub. The new path will be surfaced throughout and will offer a smooth and much less steep climb up to Clearbrook, in keeping with the aim of the National Cycle Network to offer good trails for all levels of cycling ability, including those less able.
The old path will be close for the duration of the work as heavy machinery will be on site. Please do not attempt to use the path but instead use the signed diversion along the road.
The Planning Inspector has now ruled that the scheme can go ahead! Great news! So if all goes well (and that still depends on the funds being spent during the appropriate time-scale – that’s local government….) work will start in the summer.
Delighted to say that the Planning Inspectorate (the “obscure body” referred to below) has decided that an inquiry is unnecessary. We’d like to thank all those who wrote deploring the time-wasting that such an inquiry would have caused, probably resulting in the project being abandoned- we are sure that all these representations played a large part in the Inspector’s decision. A simple site visit will now be carried out. So although there is still the possibility of an adverse outcome things are looking much more hopeful. With luck this project will be completed during 2014. Devon County Council are firmly behind it.
Below is a letter written by the Chair of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign. It is in response to a notification that an obscure government body responsible for Common Land is considering calling a public enquiry into the proposed improvements to the bumpy section of cycle track from Goodameavy bridge to Clearbrook, including the creation of a new section of path to avoid the rocky zig zag up to Clearbrook. Please write saying why you think a public enquiry is totally unneccessary, by all means using any part of the letter below. From the letter below you will see that a public enquiry will probably mean the death of this project so this is important and there is only one week left as responses must be received by 19th December. As well as the address on the letter below you can respond by email to: Christine.Griffee@pins.gsi.gov.uk
Mrs Christine Griffee
The Planning Inspectorate
Common Land Casework Team
Zone 3/25, Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6PN
December 12th 2013
COMMONS ACT 2006 – SECTION 38
PROPOSED WORKS ON ROBOROUGH DOWN, DEVON
APPLICATION REFERENCE NUMBER COM 521
Dear Mrs Griffee
I write again regarding the above in my capacity as Chair of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign, as well as in a personal capacity, since my personal views reflect those of the members of the Campaign that I have contacted. As I explained in my original letter supporting the proposal, National Cycle Network route 27, of which these proposed works are part, is heavily used by the citizens of Plymouth and we have a real interest in seeing the proposed improvements implemented.
The Plymouth Cycling Campaign has 220 members plus a further 223 who are active on our Facebook page. Since receiving your email regarding the fact that you are considering holding a public enquiry I have spoken to many of our members and the view is always the same:
- why do we need an enquiry when all due process has been taken already and found in favour of the proposed works?
- what new ground would be covered by a public enquiry?
- such an enquiry would be expensive and time-consuming and of doubtful value
- a public enquiry would effectively be the death of the project since the funds required are time-limited by central government and the period for construction would surely have expired before the enquiry can be completed
- considerable resources have been expended to produce a viable, well-researched plan to complete this vital missing link in the Devon Coast to Coast path
- objections to the proposed route and associated works are not based on anything other than a wish to restrict cycle access to Clearbrook village, such a restriction being contrary to local and national government guidelines to enable cycling as a healthy pursuit and to facilitate access to the countryside. Many people in Clearbrook use the route!
- The alternative routes suggested are not the subject of the application and are irrelevant. If these matters are removed from consideration, determining this application becomes a simple matter. The remaining objections such as ‘a scar on the landscape’ would apply still more to the alternative routes. Logically this leaves the submitted application as the only viable way forward.
- restricting access to Clearbrook in this way would impact adversely on wheelchair users who could only reach Clearbrook and its facilities via the road, again breaching guidelines under the Disability Discrimination Act.
- the authorities most concerned with this improvement have supported it e.g. Dartmoor National Park Authority, the Maristowe Estate, Devon County Council, Sustrans
- clearance work which has already taken place along the proposed route (for the purpose of the archaeological surveys) means that concerns about wildlife and tree removal no longer apply. This work is supported by a professional ecological survey and supports the management of the Common.
- I have walked the proposed route and can confirm that the clearance work means that one of the objectors’ concerns is no longer relevant because of the above-mentioned clearance work. I can also state that damage is minimal, comprising removal of gorse and scrub with no major tree removals. The soil that will be removed in order to construct the cutting will be used to surface the existing rail track and as infill in order to maintain the correct gradient. It is disingenuous of the objectors to suggest the spoil will block the old railway track which will still be available as a path. The railway is not part of the Common so these objections can also be disregarded in deciding whether to hold an Enquiry.
It is also disingenuous of the objectors to maintain that their alternative route comprises a reduced slope. After scrambling along this alternative route I can confirm that it goes through very rough terrain and rises much more steeply from the railway path. It is impossible to see how such a route could be realised without major and extensive works, and even then would present a considerable challenge to all but the most experienced cyclists. Having walked this alternative route I can also confirm that many mature trees would require removal, which requirement hardly accords with the objectors’ concern for flora and fauna along the much less disruptive proposed route. In any case the suggestion of an alternative route is surely irrelevant at this stage.
Should this suggested enquiry go ahead then there is the potential for a shameful waste of public money, resulting in the likelihood of the project being abandoned even if the enquiry finds in its favour! An enquiry based on irrelevant objections from a small minority seems close to a misuse of public funds. I understand that the landlord of the Skylark pub in Clearbrook has a petition of around 200 names in support of the project, which makes a mockery of the small number of objectors who are claiming local opposition. Not to mention the large majority of folk from all around the area (including a number of locals) who have already expressed support for the project.
It is frankly hard to understand why, with so much support for the proposed route, the completely impractical alternative route would be considered as a real alternative. The proposed route has been a well-known probability for many years, with no mention of the alternative route from the objectors. The alternative route would require starting the whole scheme from scratch and in much more problematic terrain. One can only wonder if the objectors’ real aim is to scupper the possibility of ever improving this section of NCN 27 and forever limiting the number of cyclists, not to mention wheelchair users, able to enjoy the facilities available in the village of Clearbrook.
I and the members of the Plymouth Cycling Campaign, some of whom I know will be writing to you themselves, strongly object to any proposed public enquiry to resolve this simple matter, and believe that all necessary enquiries have already been made, resulting in a positive outcome for the proposed improvements.
If however this public enquiry does take place I would want to be present and to speak and to call witnesses. I cannot say how many or how long this might take at this stage. If you want clarification then let me know and I will get back to you.
Plymouth Cycling Campaign (PCyC)