Supporters of Wye Valley Cycle Route take on NIMBY opponents

Parish council unanimously rejects plan supporters say would be "well loved" community asset

by Simon_MacMichael   October 11, 2010  

River Wye Bridge impression.jpg

Supporters of a planned £750,000 cycle path through the Wye Valley have set up a group to highlight the benefits of the proposed scheme, which has been criticised in some quarters, including a local parish council voting unanimously against the scheme.

In August, we reported that Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, had submitted plans to to the Forest of Dean Council and Monmouthshire County Council for the proposed cycle path, which is intended to link Chepstow and Tintern.

The proposed facility will be part-funded through the Big Lottery Fund under the Sustrans Connect2 project.

The planned route largely follows the disused Wye Valley railway line through the lower gorge of the River Wye, including two former railway tunnels and a new bridge that will cross the river at the point once occupied by a railway bridge.

Andy Littledale of the Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling group said that the planned cycle path would “be a benign and well-loved asset to the community and not a magnet for anti-social behaviour and parking problems,” according to the website, This Is Gloucestershire.

"Local kids could cycle to school, disabled people could access the Wye Valley without getting in their cars and the local businesses in the area would get a well-needed boost," he added.

However, the project does not have unanimous local support, with Tidenham Parish Council, which the eastern bank of the river along which the planned route runs, rejecting it for a variety of reasons including potential problems with parking and the cost of maintenance.

Chairman John Powell told This Is Gloucestershire: "Sustrans are known for coming up with the cash to buy these things and then not looking after them,” without citing specific examples to back up his claim.

"If this goes through and that is the case, which I expect it would be, then the parish council would be left with a maintenance bill of £40,000 per year to look after the path,” he insisted. “The knock-on effect is that this would have to come out of council tax, meaning that people would find their council tax bill rising by 40 per cent just to afford this, it's crazy.

"I, and the rest of the council, sincerely hope this doesn't go through," he added.

Councillor Powell also rejected suggestions that the new route would benefit local businesses. "It is an absurd statement as we only have one pub and we don't have any cafes," he maintained.

Last year, the Tidenham Parish Council opposed plans to install a viewing platform on the Devil’s Pulpit, a limestone outcrop overlooking Tintern Abbey, with opponents claiming that the proposal was part of a growing trend that risked turning the Wye Valley into “theme park.”

Judy Lewis, who lives in nearby Brockweir and is a member of the Brockweir Cycleway Concern group, told the South Wales Argus last week: "It's a national route coming into the Wye Valley and we are concerned for the landscape. A lot of people will bring cars to the area and we don't think that the valley can cope with this."

On its website, the  Wye Valley Communities for Safe Cycling group sets out a number of messages of support from locals including Sian Lloyd, the TV weather presenter, who said: "I have a passion for walking and cycling and Sustrans' plans for the railway path sound fantastic. What an amazing resource for the people of the Wye Valley and the surrounding area. I am behind them 100 per cent."

It also quotes a Daily Telegraph article from Ben Fogle in which the TV adventurer gave his backing to the project, saying: "Last week I stayed with Kate Humble at her beautiful home in the Wye Valley. We spent the weekend walking the dogs around the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

"Sustrans... hopes to reopen the Wye Valley railways line as a 'greenway' giving a traffic-free alternative to walkers, cyclists and riders between Chepstow and Brockweir, via Tintern. They would be applauded, as the link would provide a welcome attraction to the region," Fogle added.

Monmouthsire County Council has invited people to put forward their views on the proposed cycle path by email to planning@monmouthshire.gov.uk, quoting planning reference number DC/2010/00783, but you’ll need to be quick because the deadline is tomorrow.
 

8 user comments

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Rather bizarrely, the front page of the Tidenham Parish Council website reads:

The parish is very much tied in with its environment with an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); nature reserves, walking routes, cliffs for climbing, caves for exploring ... and there are plans for more such as the Wye Valley Cycle Path Scheme.

http://www.tidenhamparishcouncil.co.uk/index.html

This suggests that they think the Wye Valley Cycle Path Scheme would be good for the area - yet they oppose it!

Mike
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Mike McBeth's picture

posted by Mike McBeth [72 posts]
11th October 2010 - 22:28

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Here in the States, NIMBY groups oppose railtrail conversions, citing such "facts". But is proven that railtrails help the local community by promoting tourism and groups vie to help by maintaining trails etc.

Tom

Tom Moore

posted by TomAMoore [16 posts]
12th October 2010 - 21:51

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£40,000 per year for a single parish council to keep part of a cyclepath tidy?! Where on earth did they get that figure from?

A similar project here in Shropshire met with a small amount of Nimby opposition but the benefits are obvious while the obstacles are not an issue. A feasibility study PDF is linked from the page above.

I'm sure this would be a beautiful route to ride. Have sent lengthy emails to Monmouthshire & Forest of Dean planning depts.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1910 posts]
12th October 2010 - 22:35

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Thanks for your support, Simon. There is some astonishing scaremongering locally, and we are frankly amazed that the parish council are participating in this, considering they are bound by a code of conduct.

Not only have Sustrans undertaken to pick up the bill for their estimated annual maintenance figure of £21876, the Parish council don't seem to understand that the scope of their statutory 'power' is much less than they might wish. In other words, they only have a legal responsibility for maintenance of areas such as allotments and church graveyards. Maintenance of highways and public rights of way falls to the County Council, so even if the route were subsequently 'adopted' by local authorities, the increase in the council tax burden is actually calculated at 0.009% which translates into a rise of between 9 & 27 pence per household per year in this parish!

We too believe this route will be a wonderful feature for our children and future generations, and remove the need for locals to resort to the car for visits to and from the valley. We hope the outrageous and unethical claims by those sitting on a duplicitous (as spotted by Mike!) and ill-informed parish council are exposed for what they are...
To support the path, please visit http://www.wyevalleycycling.org.uk/

posted by jemcowen [2 posts]
12th October 2010 - 23:19

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Thanks for the info jemcowen. Fingers crossed, on this occasion it appears that the objectors have a particularly poor argument and probably look rather stupid.

To all supporting terrific projects like this I say keep plugging away, it's worth fighting for.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1910 posts]
13th October 2010 - 9:22

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Update on this story:
On 9th November, the Forest of Dean District Council finally granted planning permission for this route in the district which is fantastic news!

However, we are only 1/2 way there. Monmouthshire County Council are also considering the same application, as it crosses the english/welsh border.

To see how to submit your support to Monmouthshire County Council, visit http://www.wyevalleycycling.org.uk/tips.php?id=11 or email planning@monmouthshire.gov.uk quoting planning reference DC/2010/00783

Thanks for your support!

posted by jemcowen [2 posts]
16th November 2010 - 11:15

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brilliant news jemc, i've tweeted the link and emailed the bean counters in monmouth...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7256 posts]
16th November 2010 - 11:44

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Funnily enough think Simon is writing something on that very topic today

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
16th November 2010 - 11:51

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