Controversial access road through park rejected

Putting a road through “would’ve ruined it”.

Some councillors in favour of the road worry about the district falling behind its targets to build new homes and the threat of the government stepping in to force planning decisions on the council.

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

Plans to build an access road across a popular park have been rejected by North Devon District Council.

The council had been considering selling Westacott Park to a developer with a view to building a secondary access road for a new housing development.

The council’s strategy and resources committee voted six to three against controversial proposals put forward by developer Progress Land Ltd. 

The park had been earmarked by the council as a potential access road to a development of more than 130 new homes.

Councillor David Knight, who voted against the plans, said:  “It’s a contentious decision but personally I’m not happy with selling a park to put a road in the middle of it.”

“It’s an intimate space which people use and frankly putting a road through it would have ruined it.”

Progress Land intended to acquire the park from the council for an undisclosed fee. If their plans were accepted, they promised to build a new park and improve what remains of the current Westacott Park by furnishing it with new equipment.

The road, which would have covered more than 10 per cent of the park, has divided local opinion.

Some councillors in favour of the road worry about the district falling behind its targets to build new homes and the threat of the government stepping in to force planning decisions on the council.

One of those to vote in favour of the plans was Councillor John Patrinos (Independent, Lynton and Lynmouth) who warned: “We can’t afford to stop these houses being built.

“If we do then, according to the rules laid down by government, we’re not going to have a five-year land supply for our local plan.” 

Councillors from both sides agree that alternative plans for the access road need to be more developed and put forward to the council.

Julie Hunt (Lib Dem, Barnstaple with Westacott) welcomed the result whilst recognising the need for an alternative.

Councillor Hunt also warned that the road, unpopular with many residents, might not be off the table for good:  “It can always come back. There’s nothing set in stone.” 

“I’ll be very surprised if we’ve heard the last of it.”

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