A feasibility study has been published looking at the possibility of developing a walking and cycling route from Sidmouth to Feniton.
The concept of the 16km multi-use route has been around for many years but has now been explored in more detail by sustainable travel charity Sustrans.
The study has been produced following a community meeting last year which highlighted the need for the report as part of the legacy work of the construction of Coleridge Bridge in Ottery St Mary, which opened to the public in August 2011.
The concept of a trail broadly follows the line of a dismantled railway and takes in Tipton St John and Ottery St Mary although the study reviews a number of route options. Many sections of the old railway line have been built on, and 28 private landowners have so far been identified along route options by Sustrans.
The charity has also assessed the benefits and challenges of developing a multi-use trail across East Devon, at an estimated construction cost of around £1.4 million, although the provision of a bridge over the A3052 at Bowd which is desirable would potentially double the construction costs.
Any possible route would have to be delivered in sections over a number of years and would serve around 26,000 residents. The aim would be to develop a route that is convenient, safe, accessible and attractive, in order to provide local communities with a realistic alternative to the car to encourage people to travel by foot, cycle or horse. It could potentially generate around £600,000 per year of additional spending in the area from cycling visitors.
Paul Hawkins, Devon Area Manager for Sustrans, said: “The East Devon countryside is a beautiful experience on foot and cycle, and the concept of linking up these communities with a safe route is very appealing and would provide both tourism and local commuting benefits. Delivery of a whole route would be complex, involve many stakeholders and take many years, but with careful planning sections of the route could be delivered to the benefit of local communities.”
Devon County Council is committed to investing in cycling and has both encouraged and enabled around a 15% growth in average daily cycle trips across the whole county over the past five years.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “This report is useful in highlighting future possibilities, but it has to be remembered that this trail is a long term ambition rather than something which can be achieved overnight. A lot of work would have to be done to make this scheme a reality. If we look at the Exe Estuary Trail that has taken around 15 years to deliver, with work on the final section just about to get underway. Devon is a leading authority when it comes to cycling, and we have demonstrated in recent years that we have become a premier destination for cycling tourism. We’ve been successful in getting more people cycling in Devon which can benefit people of all ages and abilities. Cycling and walking have positive impacts on the local economy, improving health, tackling congestion and reducing emissions.
“We have an outstanding track record of delivering award winning schemes such as Redhayes Bridge near Junction 29 of the M5 and Gem Bridge near Tavistock. East Devon is already popular with visitors and a multi-use route, particularly one which links to the Jurassic Coast at one end and Feniton railway station at the other, would provide an added draw. As well as increasing visitor numbers to the area it would also enable local people to travel to work and school without relying on the car.”
Councillor Claire Wright, Devon County Councillor for Ottery St Mary Rural, said: “The production of a the feasibility study, which Paul Hawkins worked really hard on, is a really important step forward. It tells us what needs to be done to make the cycleway achievable. It won’t be easy but there is a huge determination within the local community to make it happen. I look forward to moving the Ottery section of the project forward with the help of the Otter Trail group and other members of the community.”
Read the study here – http://www.sustrans.org.uk/news/study-assesses-feasibility-new-route-sidmouth-feniton
Photograph. Kirby Jones: Part of the old railway line between Feniton and Ottery.