Updated: Whiddon Valley residents protest against draft local plan

Protesters gathered in Whiddon Valley on Wednesday morning.

Protesters gathered in Whiddon Valley on Wednesday morning. - Credit: Archant

Angry local residents turned out to stand up against the plans, which outline a development for the Westacott area.

The Westacott Extension is shown to the right of the plan. The original plans showed a cycle path (p

The Westacott Extension is shown to the right of the plan. The original plans showed a cycle path (pictured) but no road through the park. - Credit: Archant

MORE than 100 angry residents gathered at the Westacott Meadow play area in Whiddon Valley this morning (Weds) to protest against the draft joint local plan.

Residents placed signs all around the area to advertise the protest.

Residents placed signs all around the area to advertise the protest. - Credit: Archant

As part of plans by North Devon and Torridge, which are currently out to public consultation, the area is highlighted for development.

But local people fear the extension will take away the play park which is at the heart of the community and turn the area into a ‘rat run’.

The draft plan said a potential new road would ‘link to Westacott Road through the existing public open space, which will provide improved links between Whiddon Valley and the North Devon Link Road’.

Louise Hedges, of Westacott Meadow, organised the protest at 10am which saw around 150 people turn out to stand for their play park.

Many of the residents claimed they had not found out about the plans until a public consultation event last Friday – a week before the deadline for objections.

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Mrs Hedges, who has two young children who use the park, said residents were handed leaflets during the consultation which showed a cycle path running through the play area.

“But on closer inspection of the plans online we found out that instead of a cycle path, which the leaflets handed to us during the consultation implied, a road is proposed for our only green space,” said Mrs Hedges.

“We would like to know why the road is being planned for our park; why would the council want to destroy the only space that we have to play in?”

Some said they had only heard of the plans when Councillor Sue Haywood handed letters out advising residents of the proposed development.

Anna Mitchell, of Peards Down Close, said she often uses the park with her son, who has learning difficulties.

“I come to the park because it’s somewhere that’s safe and I can let him run around,” she said.

“I have been knocking on doors asking people to sign a petition against this, and we have had hundreds of signatures so far which we will hand to the council.”

Barbara Golding, of Magnolia Close, said she had attended the protest to stand up for the pensioners in the area.

She said: “I have just turned 80 and it’s the only place people our age can go.

“I come up here quite often as it is near my house and it’s the only place around here to go.”

Tracy Foster, of Speedwell Close, said she was shocked to hear about the plans only yesterday.

“I have lived here since 1990 and have got three children and two grandchildren who play in the park regularly.

“I can’t believe they haven’t said anything, and we only have until Friday when our objections have to be in to the councils.”

Kate Little, joint head of strategic planning and development, said the plan had been publicised by the council online and through the media since January 14.

“The public have been able to access the consultation and the draft plan online through both councils’ websites,” she said.

“Paper copies of the plan can also be viewed at the council offices, libraries and parish council offices.

“We have already received a lot of comments to the draft local plan, including many representations to the proposals at Westacott.

“All views and suggestions that are made before the deadline will then be considered, with any amendments made, before an amended version of the draft plan is published by July.

“There will then be another six-week consultation period before the final version is submitted to the Secretary of State for a public examination in the autumn, ready for adoption next spring.”

The plan can be viewed by clicking the link in the top right of the page. Comments are being accepted on the plans until 5pm on Friday.

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