Agenda and minutes

Contact: Hilary Winter, Forum Officer, 07837171000, 01392 382771  Email:

No. Item




Apologies had been received from Cllr Richard Chesterton, Jo Hooper, Sue Leith, Lorna Sherriff and Bryan Smith.


The Chair noted the appointment of new councillors, Cllr Linda Hellyer and Cllr Richard Chesterton, to the Devon Countryside Access Forum. Cllr Linda Hellyer and Richard Walton, the newly appointed Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager, were welcomed to the meeting.  Lorna Sherriff had been appointed as the South West Coast Path National Trail Officer and the Forum was pleased she was able to continue as a member. 


Declaration of interests


There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the Fifty-Eighth meeting held on 27 April 2021 pdf icon PDF 520 KB


Minutes of the meeting held on 27 April 2021 were agreed as a correct record and would be signed at a later date.


Matters arising


Teign Estuary Trail


A decision on the planning application was expected in October following discussions with the Environment Agency and Network Rail.  The outcome would be reported at the next meeting.  Jo Burgess offered to speak to the Planning Officer if required.


Lower Otter Restoration project


The footpath to the west had been closed on 1 September for eight weeks.  Vegetation and creek creation work would commence shortly.  There was no parking in South Farm Road and at Whitebridge and this would continue until spring 2023 when a new car park is built off South Farm Road. 


The project start had been delayed so that scrub management was not being carried out during bird nesting season. It was not thought this would delay the overall timeframe due to deadlines associated with funding streams.  It was noted car parking is at a premium.


Richard Walton, DCC, was liaising with legal services, DCC, about agreements related to diversions, extinguishments, road alignment and maintenance responsibilities.  The Public Rights of Way team had a statutory and advisory role, with the Environment Agency currently leading on temporary path closures through its powers.  Path diversions would use Town and Country Planning Act legislation and so be coordinated by East Devon District Council.  He thought the scheme was generally better accepted as there was now increased understanding about the wider objectives.  Access was seen as very important.  Inevitably there would be frustration around the construction phase and some people unhappy about the project.


The need to achieve improvements by installing accessible gates, particularly to the north of Whitebridge, was raised.


Clyst Valley Regional Park Masterplan


The Masterplan had been approved by East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on 27 April.  Simon Bates, project officer, was working with the local Ramblers’ on both the ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ initiative and also upgrades/possible diversions in relation to the proposed Clyst Valley Trail.  Work on scoping a bid to the Lottery had been started which will have a major emphasis on routeways, including the establishment of quiet ways.


Gordon Guest, also a Cullompton Town Councillor, expressed concern that there were no additional links from the Clyst Valley trail project up to the planned Garden Village near Cullompton, only a mile from Ashclyst Forest.


Richard Walton, DCC, had been involved in discussions with the Planning Policy Transport Team and can feed in items to those conversations.


It was resolved to consider wider trail links at the January meeting as part of the strategic role of the Forum.


Action:  Forum Officer


Exe Estuary Trail accessibility


Gordon Guest and the Wheelchair Access Group had been out on site with Kirstie Pritchard, DCC, to look at accessible routes along and around the Exe Estuary Trail which could be promoted.  Information would be on the website in due course.  The lack of wheelchair accessible toilets remained an issue.


Countryside Code refresh


A summer campaign targeted at families and 16-24 year olds had been launched using interactive paid-for social media adverts.  A promotional film had been released, with a short version on social media.  The Code had been translated into other languages and the Code launch evaluated.  Advice for land managers was being reviewed and refreshed, with a launch later in September.  The Behavioural Insights Team had been commissioned to deliver a piece of research investigating how behavioural insights could be applied to improve messaging around the refreshed Countryside Code, with a focus on avoiding litter, fire safety and keeping to the path.


Meetings attended by DCAF members


East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, launch of National Nature Reserve


Sarah Slade, Chair, and Chris Cole, Vice Chair, had attended the online launch of the Pebblebed Heaths National Nature Reserve.  A Management Plan was being prepared.


Training Day, Exeter


Members had enjoyed the Training Day held around Ludwell Valley Park, Northbrook Park and Riverside Valley Park in Exeter.  Members had been accompanied by staff from the Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council. Members welcomed the opportunity to meet out on site and many had been unaware of the extent of Exeter’s green areas and the extensive nature of the paths.


It was confirmed that the Wheelchair Access Group had not experienced problems crossing the Topsham Road.  A long-term aspiration of the Devon Wildlife Trust was a bridge crossing.


It was noted that Devon Wildlife Trust was no longer involved with Seaton Jurassic.  Whilst this was likely to have been a commercial decision due to the impact of CoVID-19, there was concern this might impact on funding for other projects, such as Ludwell Valley Park.  It was agreed to follow this up.


Action:  Forum Officer



Restoring Stover Park project event


The Chair and Vice Chair had attended an interesting Restoring Stover Park event.  The project sought to improve accessible areas and links to wildlife and heritage.  A notable proportion of the bid is focussed on restoring the stables, in the curtilage of Stover School, with limited public access.  Comment was made that additional consideration around greater public access to the stables was important.


Richard Walton, DCC, confirmed the project included land purchase which will enable a longer trail with additional permissive access, alleviating pressure around the wildlife sensitive lake area.  Open days for the subterranean stables would be a requirement of funding.  As the bid would be to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), heritage and landscape value are key criteria.  The link with the school was being strengthened.  Work was being done on drawing in match funding, for example from Highways England, with regard to de-silting the lake, and Devon County Council’s Capital Programme.  A review meeting would take place with the NLHF in January to include appraisal of the project proposals and critical assessment of design and costings.  Subject to the results of this review, the bid submission would be in May 2022. 


It was agreed the project was worthy of support and a letter would be submitted, when appropriate.


Correspondence Log pdf icon PDF 270 KB


A number of items were raised.


Item 1

It was noted there were no current plans to infill or demolish bridge structures in Devon.  It was agreed that the Forum Officer should write to the Historic Railways Estate to request that the Forum is informed should the situation change.


Action:  Forum Officer


Item 25

The feedback from the Neighbourhood Plan Officer at Broadclyst Parish Council was noted.


Item 26

Attention was drawn to the DCAF response to the Soil Association on Forestry England’s management of its forests.  FE was complimented on its recreational access provision.  The need to remove any remaining barriers to disability access was raised and information requested on proposals to introduce event zones in forest areas.


Item 28

It was noted that questions were arising concerning the ‘Don’t Lose your Way’ project and the 2026 cut-off date.  Richard Walton and Caroline Gatrell from the Public Rights of Way team had attended a Ramblers’ area meeting.  A presentation had been given on the ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ project by the Ramblers’ project officer.  The Public Rights of Way team was assisting with advice from parish reviews and in filtering projects to enable focus on the paths with the strongest chance of proceeding. 


A request was made as to whether local contact details for the DLYW project could be shared.  Richard Walton would check and if feasible supply these.


Action:  Richard Walton, DCC


Public questions


There were no public questions.


Minutes of the Public Rights of Way Committee meeting held on 1 July 2021 pdf icon PDF 184 KB



The Minutes of the Public Rights of Way Committee meeting were noted.  This had been a short meeting, chaired by Cllr Linda Hellyer for the first time.


Public Rights of Way update pdf icon PDF 116 KB


Richard Walton, Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager, had provided an agenda paper and discussed further aspects of his role in the County. He explained that he had been involved with Local Access Forums in his previous roles with Cornwall Council, the New Forest National Park and Bracknell Forest Council and there was much synergy in relation to topics and issues.  LAF recommendations were important in steering wider work.


Richard expanded on the ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ project explaining that the Ramblers’ and British Horse Society were working hard on this and involving interested people.  The Public Rights of Way team was liaising carefully to inform the process and ensure the highest quality proposals were put forward with the right evidence base to ease future workload.  The Devon parish by parish review was recognised as a strong approach and the Ramblers’ had been advised to focus on parishes where the review was currently taking place or not yet happened.  Appropriate information could be shared on parishes where the review had been completed.


Further information was given on the England Coast Path process:


·         Work was continuing with Natural England and landowners to finalise the designation process.

·         Exmoor National Park would lead on establishment works and grant bids on the Minehead to Combe Martin stretch.

·         On the Combe Martin to Marsland Mouth stretch most recommendations had been approved.  A decision following the Planning Inspector’s visit was awaited.  In the interim, additional discussion with landowners between Croyde and Velator had taken place which may lead to a better outcome.

·         The Cremyll to Kingswear stretch was largely approved except reports on Cremyll to Batten Point, Mothecombe Beach to the Avon Estuary and Torcross to Kingswear.  A visit by the Planning Inspector should be complete by the end of the year.

·         Grant bids should be submitted for projects next month. These included:

o   Cliff stabilisation and reinstatement of the path at Torcross.  The Marine Management Organisation had given approval.  A bid of £123,000 (100%) would be submitted to the Establishment Fund.

o   Reinstatement of the concrete causeway from Croyde to Downend following approval for works on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

o   Signage works costing an estimated £20,000 on the Kingswear to Lyme Regis stretch.

·         Between Appledore and Westward Ho! discussions were taking place with Torridge District Council and Natural England to move the England Coast Path off-road along a proposed new coastal embankment, part of flood prevention work.

·         Path improvements at Mothecombe Beach are proposed but this stretch had not yet been approved by the Secretary of State.


Richard Walton confirmed that the £20,000 for signs on the Kingswear to Lyme Regis section would be a combination of new signs/directional signs and adapting existing signs.  Liaison would take place with the South West Coast Path Association.  The SWCP would remain the primary branding.


The Definitive Map team was making sure it is prepared for the 2026 deadline for registering unrecorded rights based on historical evidence but the Secretary of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Presentation by Chris Woodruff, Manager, East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Focus on the Glover Review, Farming in Protected Landscapes and recreational access.


A welcome was given to Chris Woodruff, Manager of East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Pebblebed Heaths National Nature Reserve.


The main themes of the Glover Review 2019 were outlined. These shone a good light on the AONBs and potential opportunities.  The Review listed twenty-seven proposals, some related to access and improving people’s connection with the landscape.  There were five main themes.


·         Landscapes alive for nature and beauty

·         Landscapes for everyone

·         Living in landscapes

·         More special places

·         New ways of working


The Ministerial Statement on the Glover Review mentioned designating four new AONBs:


1. A new Yorkshire Wolds AONB

2. A new Cheshire Sandstone Ridge AONB

3. An extension to the Surrey Hills AONB (where initial work had already begun)

4. An extension to the Chilterns AONB, alongside consideration of the potential for strengthened management and governance arrangements.


Should these areas meet the designation criteria, they would contribute substantially towards Government’s ambitious pledge to protect and improve 30% of our land for nature by 2030, delivering over 40% of the additional 4000 square km required.


The Review focussed on complementing protection alongside new approaches to driving nature recovery and people’s access to nature, especially in environmentally deprived areas in and around cities.


Defra was currently undertaking research into children and young people’s engagement with the natural environment through a series of scoping exercises and case studies covering ethnic minorities, disability, schools, partnerships, long term engagement, under-represented children and rural children. 


The National Association of AONBs was carrying out a lot of work and was vocal about the need to retain the local dimension, even if there are benefits arising from a proposed centralised National Landscape Service structure. Increased liaison was taking place with National Parks and this had been positive with sharing of different approaches. 


Funding was being explored through increased private investment, particularly by diversifying funding sources to include emerging markets in natural capital and other commercial opportunities.   


One suggestion was that the AONBs should change their name and be called National Landscapes and the Chilterns had already adopted this.  It would be more than a branding exercise and full recommendations and a consultation were expected shortly.


Glover Proposal 5 states there would be “A central place for national landscapes in new Environmental Land Management Schemes.”  The government had agreed to do more to support public access and the new Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) programme would provide additional investment to allow farmers and other land managers to work in partnership with National Park Authorities and AONB teams “to improve public access, and deliver bigger and better outcomes for the environment, for people and for places.”


Many AONBs had no direct experience of working with farmers so this constituted a big step change.


Over the three-year programme there was over £50m to support the Agricultural Transition Programme.  Projects would need to:


1.    Support nature recovery

2.    Mitigate the impacts of climate change

3.    Provide opportunities for people to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


To note and approve responses


Northbrook Approach, Exeter. Devon Wildlife Trust pdf icon PDF 280 KB


The response was noted and approved.  The Devon Wildlife Trust would be putting a paper to Exeter City Council’s Executive in October 2021.


Teign Estuary Trail planning application, Devon County Council pdf icon PDF 245 KB


The response was noted and approved.


Planning application number 21/1392/FUL – car park improvements (Pebblebed Heaths), East Devon District Council pdf icon PDF 606 KB


The response was noted and approved.


Current consultations


Exe Estuary Management Plan 2022-2027 pdf icon PDF 158 KB


Discussion took place on the Public Transport, Access and Land Based Recreation sub-theme of the Exe Estuary Management Plan 2022-2027. The issue of the lack of disabled toilets was raised as the national guidelines (2010) do not incorporate the requirements of new designs of mobility scooter.  Some toilets around the Exe Estuary were not wheelchair accessible and this deterred use of the trail.  The design of others, for example at Topsham, were not suitable for scooter use.  Family Changing Rooms, used in some areas, were bigger than required for disability use.


It was noted that the Exe Estuary Trail was very popular and promoting responsible and considerate use should be a key issue in the new Plan. 


Lack of awareness of the trail amongst disability groups was an area where weblinks and direct contact would be useful.


In terms of new policies it was suggested that promoting the trail to schools and young people would encourage younger users.  In addition, there were sections on both sides of the estuary where the route was on-road and efforts should continue to be made to secure better off-road provision through discussion with Network Rail and others.  A draft would be circulated by the Forum Officer.


Action:  Forum Officer



Work Programme 2021-2022 pdf icon PDF 134 KB


The draft work plan was noted.  Members raised the importance of continuing to campaign for improved links between trails/green space areas and across wider areas to secure additional off-road benefits for recreational users and enhanced opportunities for sustainable travel, for example to the north of Exeter and between Tiverton and Cullompton.  This would be added to the work plan.


Action:  Forum Officer


Adding the 2026 cut-off date for historical rights of way claims was suggested but it was agreed to leave this until the date was implemented. 


Dartmoor Way progress


The Dartmoor Way walking route had been launched virtually in autumn 2020 with an official launch in April 2021.  Funding was sought for the next phase of the project which will include revenue budget to the end of 2022 and addition of full website information on pushchair friendly and limited mobility access.  The DCAF had been approached about funding sources and one or two suggestions had been made.  Members were asked to let the Forum Officer know any potential funding sources.


Action:  Members


Any other business


The Chair brought some items to the attention of the Forum which had arisen since the agenda was prepared.


1.    Heart of Teignbridge Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan

The online survey was aimed at local residents.  The full Plan incorporated aspirations for better links between the Stover Trail and the Teign Valley Trail and a brief response was proposed. The closing date was 1 October.  A draft would be circulated for approval.


Action:  Forum Officer


2.    Dartmoor National Park

The Dartmoor National Park Authority had launched a consultation on proposed bylaw changes which included new restrictions around dogs and wild camping.  This arose out of intense recreational pressure during CoVID-19 and the proposals sought to make the bylaws more enforceable and understandable.  The possibility of suggesting increased ranger involvement, alongside education, was raised.  It was agreed that any formal response fell within the remit of the Dartmoor Local Access Forum but any member could respond individually.  The Forum Officer would circulate links.


Action:  Forum Officer


3.    East Devon District Council

EDDC was carrying out a consultation on its public toilets - standards, provision and priorities.  The response questionnaire was very structured and the Forum Officer would send a link for individual members to respond.


Action:  Forum Officer


4.    Disability access provision

Gordon Guest had informed members that the pub at Sourton, visited during early stages of refurbishment on a Training Day, now had excellent provision for disabled visitors.  It had been mooted that a certificate would be a way of recognising this, publicising the importance of disabled toilets and raising the profile of the DCAF.  The Chair and Forum Officer agreed to work on initial ideas and circulate.  The concept would be shared with Dartmoor Local Access Forum.


Action:  Forum Officer


5.    Dawlish Warren

Gordon Guest had recently visited Dawlish Warren and discussed gates with the Ranger. A DCAF site visit had taken place in 2017 and, following advice during this visit, different and more accessible gates had been installed.  These were still in situ, allaying concerns that they were no longer accessible structures.




Date of next meeting


The next meeting would be held on Tuesday, 18 January 2022, details to be confirmed.