A petition of 265 signatures and 132 letters were delivered to Devon County Council on 12th February. All those people who wrote letters have been sent a standard reply from the Head of Planning, Transport & Environment at DCC. This letter is disappointing because it just tells us information that we already know. On the positive side, it says that they “have established a working group to investigate options to improve the environment in Lympstone relating to the Exe Estuary Trail” and that they “will seek to clarify the position regarding land ownership in relation to the off road option along the railway line”. The letter also refers to the meeting with the Parish Council scheduled for 19th March. However, there are many points that DCC has not addressed. In view of this, we have written a follow-up letter requesting a much more detailed response. In summary, this focuses on:
(1) The fact that DCC’s decision to route the EET on the roads through Lympstone was made without a detailed investigation of alternative options (or clear communication of these options to village residents), without a safety audit or risk assessment of the on-road route (despite safety concerns being raised), contrary to the recommendation of the Parish Council, and based on incorrect information provided by a representative of DCC concerning the completion of a safety audit (they told the Committee that an audit had been completed when it hadn’t).
(2) Our belief that DCC is failing in its duty on road safety by taking little regard of information provided by village residents about accidents and near misses (not conducting appropriate investigations and not taking appropriate measures to prevent accidents).
(3) DCC’s reasons for rejecting the off-road route are weak, so we have requested further information for the reasons listed in their letter of 24th February. For example, following recent detailed consultation with Network Rail we now know that the original estimate for constructing the off-road route was relatively low; the route is technically feasible; there do not appear to be any complicated landownership or land use issues; and the number of objections to the off-road route at the planning stage was low.
Our objective is to ensure that DCC acknowledges the errors made in the planning process and their legal responsibilities, and commits to developing an additional off-road route for the EET. We believe that central government funding is available (through sustainable transport funds), and it would not affect local budgets.
More individual letters to DCC (in response to their letter dated 24th February) would help, so please write if you have time. If possible, please give us a copy so we can keep track of communications – either to email@example.com, or by hand (leave a copy in the Newsagent if that is more convenient).
Chair, Trail Action Group – Lympstone