For more than fifteen years campaigners have been striving to create the missing link that will provide a safe walking and cycling path between Totnes and Littlehempston and the quiet routes beyond, towards Ipplepen and Newton Abbot.
Nick Oldfield of South Devon Cycle Link, writing in the Totnes Pulse in February 2020 set out the arguments for the use by cyclists and walkers of the private bridge that gives access to the South Devon Railway and the Rare Breeds Farm. Nick called on the South Devon Railway to reconsider their refusal to allow public use of the bridge. Four years later many people are wondering if there’s any progress and whether there’s any chance of success.
What’s Happened then?
At last there seems to be some good news. Nicky Rajska of the Littlehempston Access for All path is now taking a lead on this and reports that things are moving in a positive direction.
Creating a cyclepath between Totnes and Littlehempston is much more complicated than simply opening the bridge to the public. South Devon Railway own the bridge but it was partly paid for with public money. The Railway’s initial resistance to opening the bridge, combined with strong objections from the Rare Breeds Farm became the focus of strong criticism by cycle campaigners.
The cyclepath issues:
Getting across the River Dart is one hurdle. The river bank on the Littlehempston side of the river is owned by South West Water. They will need to give permission for a path. Access from the river to Littlehempston is via a narrow lane which crosses the South Devon railway. It is used by goods vehicles delivering to the water treatment works. There is concern that these vehicles might pose a risk to cyclists or pedestrians. If this lane can’t be used, an alternative railway crossing will be needed. It will also be necessary to secure funding to build and maintain a new walking and cycling path.
Support for the new path is also coming from Sustrans
In spite of the potential pitfalls all parties involved seem committed to finding a solution. The South Devon Railway now support the shared use of the bridge as long as maintenance costs can also be shared and the security of the railway premises safeguarded. South West Water have become actively involved in discussions about the new path. South West Water currently have a planning application for the development of a solar farm on their land.
Have your say…
The public consultation on this application has shown overwhelming support for a cycle track across this land. Some responses object to the application because it fails to include plans for a cycle track. Many others support the application provided a cycle track is included as part of the development. Public consultation closes on 11 February, so there is still time to comment.
In addition to this opportunity, South West Water have a duty under Section 3 of the Water Industries Act1991 to “have regard to the desirability of preserving for the public any freedom of access to areas of woodland, mountains, moor, heath, down, cliff or foreshore and other places of natural beauty”. There is no doubt that the banks of the Dart are an area of natural beauty. The proposed solar farm provides an ideal opportunity to develop the new path and for South Water to demonstrate its commitment to working with the community.
Follow the money
A further boost for the development of a new path will come from its inclusion in the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). Devon currently has three LCWIPs but there is none for Totnes. Inclusion in the LCWIP doesn’t automatically bring funding but is important for access to and allocation of any grant money. The Active Travel Officer for South Hams Council is responsible for developing LCWIPs. Hopefully the Town Council will be pushing for the development of a Totnes LCWIP. This includes the Littlehempston cycling and walking path.
Support for the new path is also coming from Sustrans, the national cycling charity and Greenways and Cycleroutes. They also were involved in the development of the Dartington cyclepath.
A meeting is due to be hosted by South West Water in early February to which all interested parties have been invited.
Maybe at long last the ducks are not just in the river, but are all lined up to make the path a reality and create the missing link between Totnes and Littlehempston.