Agenda item


Richard Walton, Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager, provided the following update:


1)    Restoring Stover Country Park


National Heritage Lottery Fund grant approval had been confirmed in September and, following legal negotiations, permission to start had now been received. The project involves the purchase of some neighbouring land to enable additional access and restoration of the land.  Following a good number of quality applicants, posts for a Project Officer and a Project and Volunteer Administrator for this phase had been successfully recruited for, with new team members due to commence work in March/April. 


2)    Recruitment


There was a pause on Public Rights of Way Warden recruitment, partly linked to temporary DCC wide budget saving measures but progress was now being made, potentially with additional resource.


3)    Online reporting


Agreement had been reached through the service provider and in-house expertise that the updates proposed by the Public Rights of Way team were viable and these had now been identified in the work plan.  A simplified version of ease of use categories would be used for online reports which would be visible on the webpage so that people would be able to see items already reported.  This would be helpful for Wardens as it may reduce duplications of reports as, currently, a response was required for each report


4)    Sustrans


Sustrans had received Department of Transport funding, part of which was now confirmed as being available for  and a number of DCC schemes to remove chicanes, initially on the Exe Estuary trail.  2.5m clearance would be provided around removable bollards. Devon already had safety audits in place which would accelerate progress. Disabled Ramblers and the DCAF may be contacted about localised issues.


5)    Quiet Lanes


DCC Transport planners had indicated that Quiet Lanes would be considered in the new Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.  These would also seek to incorporate signage improvements.  This could potentially include the suggestions to improve signage at Jacobstowe on the National Cycle Network, as raised by Adventure Okehampton.


6)    England Coast Path


Work had been completed at Torcross.  Richard Walton acknowledged there had been a shortfall in the establishment grant for Torcross.  This was due to a time lag between the scheme being initially designed and costed (through the DCC framework agreement), the subsequent grant bid and confirmation of award, and works taking place. The shortfall had been met in part by the South West Coast Path Association (SWCPA), with the remainder through the PRoW capital programme.  Thanks were expressed for the SWCPA support.


Contractors were due on site at Downend (North Devon) to complete works by the end of the financial year.  Exploratory work was being carried out between Downend and Chesil Cliff House to seek the best route alignment and grant money was available to do this with landowner support.


All stretches of the Kingswear to Lyme Regis stretch had been approved by the Secretary of State.  DCC was liaising with the South West Coast Path Association National Trail Officer and others on potential works in those sections.  This included improvements to signage along the Exe Estuary where the official route followed the Exe Estuary Trail when the ferry was not operating.  A grant bid will be submitted for required works.


Once works are complete the Secretary of State can declare the route open, at which point further negotiations will take place at Kingswear (Lighthouse Beach) to implement the coastal access rights.


7)    Network Rail


Following an extension of the closure, the Colebrooke crossing had finally opened in January after completion of power supply to the lighted crossing.  A letter to Network Rail had been sent on behalf of the Two Moors Way Partnership to emphasise the priority and profile of the crossing, (this including the two National Parks, Devon County Council and the Two Moors Way Association).


8)    Tarka Trail


There had been some issues associated with a section of the Tarka Trail following hunt use without consent (on a permissive stretch).  This could potentially be considered anti-social behaviour, including issues such as loose hounds and quad bikes. A joint letter from Legal Services at Devon County Council and the Police Chief Officer had been sent to clarify the situation.





9)    Finances and projects


The Public Rights of Way team was on track to spend the capital budget allocation of £1.75m in this financial year, potentially with a marginal underspend.


Improvements to the towpath at the Grand Western Canal Country Park are underway and the water control system, for use at times of flood, had been upgraded.


Work continued on path improvements, including surface and drainage, and legal agreements.  A link between Darts Farm and the Exe Estuary had been renegotiated, and boardwalk improvements were being made at Bere Ferrers along a stretch of the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail. 


Significant work was being done by the Environment Agency associated with the Lower Otter Restoration Project.  A meeting had taken place with Jacobs, contractors, who had been reminded that Public Path Orders had not been finalised by the Environment Agency and East Devon District Council.  Work had started on the new bridge. It was not known exactly when the breach to allow flooding of the valley would occur.