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Local opposition to trail scheme builds with environmental and feasibility concerns

SA Updated
Local opposition to trail scheme builds with environmental and feasibility concerns

Local landowners and local people have come out in opposition to a project to create a multi-use trail following the old Primrose Line railway line.

The Primrose Trail group is trying to create a “multi-purpose leisure trail” between Kingsbridge and South Brent, following “where possible the route of the old Primrose Line railway”. Multi-use means it can be used by walkers and cyclists and it would create a link between the moor and the sea.

When the project was first floated, about four years ago, it received positive feedback from many people, but now there are worries about the practicality of the project as well as the impact it would have on the local environment.

Walkers using the current walk from Loddiswell Station - credit Richard Curzon

Richard and Nikki Curzon own Loddiswell Station, which was formerly the railway station when the line came through Loddiswell from Kingsbridge to South Brent between 1893 and 1963, and they have raised some major issues with the project.

Richard explained that the railway line was originally shut despite “local opposition at the time” and since then, the rail track has been removed and the trackbed and surrounding land was “returned back into private ownership”.

Richard said: “The line has now been closed, and nature has been allowed to regenerate, for almost as long as the line was in existence.”

He said he was told by the former owner of Loddiswell Station, the late Shelia Hall that “we are merely custodians of this building and the surrounding land, we have a responsibility to do no harm and look after it for future generations”, something he and his family take very much to heart.

The current walk from Loddiswell Station - credit Richard Curzon

He said that over the past 60 years, the idea of linking the route together as a trail has been floated “on several occasions”, but that the costs of trying to reinstate it or maintain it have come to “outweigh any potential benefits”.

Richard said: “As a landowner along a part of the old railway we were first approached by representatives of the Primrose Trail Committee (PTC) around three years ago. They described a new plan to create a ‘multi-use trail’ along the valley.

“Like many people, initially we saw the potential of such a scheme. We are an active family, we enjoy being outdoors and take part in a wide range of activities including cycling. Who wouldn’t be attracted by the thought of a safe, off-road route linking into Kingsbridge? But very quickly we saw all the practicalities that had to be overcome.

“In reality the project will only bear a negative impact on the environment throughout the valley; not to mention huge changes that would be brought about to the lives of those living directly on or adjacent to any proposed route.”

He said that “despite what representatives of the PTC have told us”, landowners along the route are “almost universally against the idea”.

It is the publication of the Feasibility Study that has re-awakened the project in people’s minds and Richard says, “factual inaccuracies within the document” have garnered attention from local people.

He said: “The study espouses its environmentally-friendly credentials, but these simply do not stand up to scrutiny. Just how are the additional estimated 50,000 visitors each year going to access sections of the trail if additional car travel is not to be the result?

“We have absolutely no wish to see long sections of glorious woodland paths widened and graded and turned over to the inevitable flood of high-speed cyclists. There has been nothing published describing all of the necessary infrastructure required for any of this.”

The current walk from Loddiswell Station - credit Richard Curzon

He called the cycle trail’s feasibility study as a “greenwash” and said that “it seems very odd indeed for these people both to claim support for, and yet object to, wildlife preservation.”

He also raised concerns about the impact that introducing cycling (it is currently a footpath only in the section of the Primrose line through Woodleigh Woods from the station) would have on the ability of people to enjoy the area, which is already very popular with locals and visitors alike.

He said: “Many different user groups already enjoy the benefits being in this space can bring, be they families out for a walk, joggers taking exercise, or people taking the rare opportunity of an off-lead dog walk.

“Anyone who has experienced popular multi-use trails such as the Camel Trail will know just how much the different user groups come into conflict. When you include cyclists on such a trail, the experience for families with young children or those with dogs, becomes an altogether different proposition.”

Peter Sheard, chair of Loddiswell Parish Council, said: “Loddiswell Parish Council does not support the current Primrose Trail proposition. In fact, we never have formally supported it.

“We had a presentation from the group some time ago which we said sounded interesting but it was so early on we asked to be kept informed. At the time, we did point out that there would be a number of issues to be resolved, before it became a viable proposition, such the potential requirement of gaining agreement/access across private land as well as other concerns such as ongoing upkeep, parking and disruption to wildlife.

“We are here to support our village and clearly the volume of objections from our residents cannot be ignored.”

Dipford Parish Council has withdrawn its support in principle for the project after receiving ten objections from their community. In a statement sent to the Primrose Trail Committee, councillors said that the parish council had “significant concerns about the environmental impact” of creating the trail.

The statement reads: “Whilst an in-principle agreement was given in 2018, there was no mention then of the anticipated usage numbers or of green travel routes and, in the light of the Feasibility Study, the Parish Council now withdraws its previously indicated support.

“The disturbance caused by building the trail and the subsequent increase in cyclists, dog walkers and groups of ramblers, together with the necessary infrastructure to support the trail, will inevitably be a detriment to the delicate riverside ecology.

“Its natural beauty and low level of human interference serve to attract and protect its special wildlife, which will be lost if the trail is developed.”

The Primrose Trail Group has responded to the points we sent them. They said: "The PT has support from some landowners, objection from some other landowners and many prefer to lay low or sit on the fence, seeing how events unfold. The PT Group has never suggested otherwise and we have clearly stated the PT will divert onto public rights of way to avoid those who prevent access.

"Loddiswell Parish Council gave positive feedback when we presented the proposals to them and it is sad if they have changed their mind, but we have not been contacted by them.

"The whole purpose of the Trail is to get people out of their cars, walking, horse riding and cycling, as opposed to driving. The quoted 'additional estimated 50,000 people each year' is a deliberate exaggeration/misquote. The Study predicts 50,000 users per annum over a near 20km long trail, not additional.

"This equates to 137 users per day, split into couples this might be around 70 groups transiting a route that is 20km long, over a 12 hour period. Or put another way, 3.5 groups of people per km over a 12 hour day.

"Laid out like this, it doesn't seem very much at all, in fact it is possible that large parts of the Trail will have no one transiting all day in the winter months at this 50,000 users per annum rate. It is our estimation that parts of the Avon Valley public rights of way already have this level of annual use, we would just make sure that people didn't need a car to get there in the first place by linking directly to Kingsbridge and South Brent.

"The PT project is being designed with the advice of independent ecologists to specifically enhance the biodiversity of the route. The Trail is a low key route, not a national tourism attraction, although no doubt some tourists, second home owners and Avon Valley residents will use it.

The PT would be for everyone without a vehicle, including the disabled and horse-riders, so the Group are happy to look at ways in which users can all move past each other without 'coming into conflict'. For example, the PT Group are working with the British Horse Society to look at methods to accommodate equestrians safely, restrict users to the trail path and to maintain the wild, calm tranquillity of the valley."

You can find out more about the project on their website 

Main image: the current walk from Loddiswell Station - credit Wayne Acourt

User comments

I was interested to discover this trail, as I'm thinking of walking across Devon, but the reference to hoards of people using it is surely nonsense. I'd also presume that people in this area use cars, etc. which obviously disturb wildlife more than a few walkers and the occasional cyclist. Sorry to rant.
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Save The Avon Valley
Whilst I can see on the surface why people would think this might be a nice idea. If you read between the lines this would actually be incredibly detrimental to this beautiful valley. There are currently 6 endangered species that reside in that valley and increasing the footfall drastically would have a devastating effect. Not to mention the destruction of habitat in creating the trail in the first place- putting down a hard surface, widening tracks, building bridges etc.

There is a lot of misleading information in the feasibility study of where the route goes, who is in support of it etc and very little communication has taken place with the residents along the trail. Knowing there are large stretches of the route where land owners do not want it, I can’t see how safe and practical alternative routes can be used as would involve steep hills, back lanes/roads which would be dangerous and disruptive.

I was surprised to see the Primrose trail have claimed that the Loddiswell Parish Council haven’t contacted them, when only the other day I saw a copy of the reply from the Primrose trail to the Loddiswell Parish council on the Loddiswell Parish Council’s Facebook page. So they clearly have been in contact and the Primrose trail has even acknowledged it by replying!!

As far as the 50,000 calculations go. It is inaccurate to calculate it per day by that method as the majority of visitors will be during peak tourist season and there will be days when the weather would not be appropriate for people to use it so when it is in use the numbers per day would be a lot higher. And the way it was worded in the feasibility study was to ‘exceed’ that number in the first year which would lead me to believe they anticipate more than that. Plus in order to make this project feasible for funding ( over 2 million) they would need to be bringing in large volumes of people otherwise how can they afford to do it? Parking is already an issue along the route and we are already bursting at the seams in this area for tourism so how would we be able to accommodate this?!

I would love to read a report from their independent wildlife ecologists to see how they plan to increase the biodiversity. Baring in mind the valley already has landowners working with members of the Devon Wildlife Trust and Woodland Trust, they are already working to provide the right habitats for the species that reside there.

I also question how easy it would be to accommodate cyclists, walkers and horse riders all along the same path. Horses are easily spooked and would struggle having cyclists zipping past and having tried to walk along a multi use (mainly cycle) path it can be pretty hazardous.

Whilst I’m sure the people behind this are well meaning. This has not been dealt with in a sensitive manner and the information given doesn’t always seem to be accurate which unfortunately leads a lot of the general public into not knowing what they are really signing up for. I implore anyone to consider all the facts before making a decision whether they support this or not.
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Bad Idea!
As the title suggests this is a bad idea. It doesn't help members of the Primrose committee encouraging farmers to believe their neighbours thought it was a wonderful idea, neither was it a good idea to encourage people to trespass in order to view sorely tunnel. But the main issue is the feasibility report, an example if ever there was one of unfounded optimism coupled with a lack of detail and a complete failure to grasp local opinion or the impact of more people in an area already suffering with overtourism.

The Report itself allows 6 lines for engineering work, considering there are three bridges and one tunnel to negotiate that seems somewhat lacking, the tunnel has a small river running out of it, there is no electric, the tunnel walls and roof will no doubt need considerable work and a surface appropriate for all will have to be laid and that's all after you have permission from the working farms it runs through, which they won't get and the idea this can somehow accommodate cyclists, horses, walkers and dogs on the same path is cloud cuckoo land.

I strongly suspect the whole project is driven by those with little knowledge of the area or what it was like historically. The last thing this area needs at this point is more tourism, the roads are already crumbling at an alarming rate, air pollution is high and coupled with the amount of congestion, waste and litter is rapidly making the area unpleasant to live in especially during the summer months but increasingly through the winter months, it is no longer sustainable. The sooner this idea is shelved the better.
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If this trail were to be built it would totally ruin one of the very few unspoiled areas on South Devon. To create a 'multi use trail' in the Avon Valley would be an enormous mistake on every level, urbanising the countryside with a wide hard track ( even though the PT group call it is 'cinder track' make NO mistake, it is a hard track) would be extremely detrimental. The UK has over 16,000 miles of cycle tracks, there is only one Avon Valley, once it is lost, it is lost forever. 50,000 MORE people using this valley would be a a great mistake. The PT group say in their own feasibility study that they would want to attract over 50,000 extra visitors. The actual words in the feasibility study are, 'the expected visitor numbers will exceed 50,000.' That is EXTRA people, NOT local people who already use the paths and bridleways that are accessible. Where will they park? In the lanes? Where will they leave their rubbish and dog poo bags?
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