Public rejects plans for access road to bulldoze part of Barnstaple play park

North Devon Gazette

Only one of the near-600 people who responded to a consultation over plans that could see part of a play park in Barnstaple used to provide a second access road to a new housing development were in favour of such a move.

North Devon Council own the freehold of the land at Westacott, but developers Progress Land had approached the council for permission to purchase some of the land to access their site of an approved in outline urban extension of 149 homes at Westacott, with a price agreed.

A small section of the park would be used to put in a new access road, which would take away just over 10 per cent of the existing area of the park, and then would be replaced with a bigger play area including a brand-new multi-use games area, upgraded play equipment and an improved playing pitch.

Councillors had previously agreed to consult the public over the scheme, and North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee, when they meet next Monday, will be asked to make a decision over whether or not to proceed with the disposal of the land.

But the report to the meeting outlines that of the 579 responses that the council had, 578 of them were opposed to the move, with only one in favour.

Although 84 per cent of the responses were responses to a standardised community survey created by a local councillor, the report says that ‘there is clearly significant opposition to a disposal’, although reminds members they should however consider the reasons for opposition put forward and not simply consider the overall numbers.

The report of Jon Triggs, head of resources, adds: “The reasons for objection include but not limited to overlooking the park, creating a rat run, pollution, contradiction to the council’s environmental policy, detrimental to property sale values, danger to children walking to school, noise of traffic, loss of green space, air pollution and destruction of wildlife habitat.

“There was one email of support stating the existing park is tired and limited, and that gaining an improved area, MUGA and large space overall is a major positive.

“Many of the issues raised by the responses are issues that were taken into account both as part of the process for allocating the site and identifying this route as a potential secondary access, and also dealt with as part of the decision to grant outline consent with a secondary route through the open space.

“There is clearly significant opposition to a disposal, but members should however consider the reasons for opposition put forward and not simply consider the overall numbers.”

The developer submitted their reserved matters application for the scheme, which would see 134 homes built on the adjacent site, but the report says that if the secondary access across the park is not allowed, then it would almost result in the scheme not coming forward until Barwood Land’s masterplan to transform a nearby 59-hectare site into a ‘new gateway to Barnstaple’, with around 800 new homes, was developed.

Mr Triggs added: “The policies in the Local Plan envisaged that there might be other options for provision for secondary access and the developers have looked to see if they could secure an alternative access to their site by utilising the adjacent industrial estate at Castle Park Road, however this has proved to be unsuccessful to date.

“This alternative access involves private land owners also has other constraints, not least the fact that it would pass through a flood zone and therefore subject to a sequential test and would also be using roads that are unsuitable.”

The Local Plan states that the purpose of the secondary access is to improve links between Whiddon Valley and the Link Road and alleviate congestion at the Rose Lane roundabout, and Mr Triggs added: “When taking the decision, members must therefore consider the impact on the development and on the wider strategic extension, in particular on the sustainability of that development if the links to the town centre cannot be created and on the delivery of the council’s own adopted strategic policies.

“If a secondary access is not provided, the outline consent will not be implementable until such time as the wider allocation is developed, simply because there will be no access. That will have an impact on the council’s ability to re-establish a five-year housing land supply.”

When the consultation was launched, leader of North Devon Council, Cllr David Worden, said: “We know the issue is controversial but we need to make sure that everyone understands fully what is being proposed and lets us know what they think before we make any decisions.”

A decision will be made at the strategy and resources committee meeting on Monday, July 5, with no recommendation made by the officers as to whether to proceed with the proposed disposal of the land.