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Okehampton station gets a car park

Thursday, 13 June 2024 08:24

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

Okehampton Railway Station (courtesy: John Spivey/LDRS)

Plans to buy land approved

Okehampton’s new £15 million railway station will have a car park, after plans to buy land for it were approved!

Okehampton Interchange, as the station looks set to be called, needs to use an area of Okehampton Business Park for both the parking area and a bridge.

Devon County Council bought the business park in 2011, but believes a restrictive covenant may still be in place which could frustrate efforts to acquire the required land, even if only temporarily.

Meeting this week (Wednesday 12 June), members of the council’s cabinet heard that the new station is expected to serve 164,000 passengers.

Cllr Andrea Davis (Conservative, Combe Martin Rural), cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, said more than 250,000 passengers had used the Dartmoor line between Exeter and Okehampton, since it opened in November 2021, “far exceeding business case predictions”.

The cabinet backed the entire Okehampton Interchange railway project – which still needs planning consent – and approved a recommendation to acquire the land for the car park.

A report for councillors said before the car park and bridge could progress, it needed to ensure the land could be used for them, given that it is ringfenced for employment.

“Okehampton Business Park is subject to a restrictive covenant which, if it remains enforceable, could prevent development of the site for the station car park and associated bridge without the consent of the party/parties with the benefit of that covenant,” the report said.

“The covenant was attached to Okehampton Business Park when it was sold to the Rural Development Agency and it may remain enforceable against the council as the current owner.”

The council’s local plan references the need to “support and not prejudice” the provision of a new railway station at the site.

The council has to show the plans would promote or improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area.

In its planning application for the business park, the council clearly identified part of the site as being earmarked for use as a railway station car park.

The council said that even if compensation had to be paid to the benefactors of the covenant, it expected it wouldn’t cost much.

The Okehampton Interchange scheme has received £13.4 million from the national Levelling Up fund, while Devon County Council has borrowed £1.2 million towards the project and West Devon Borough Council has contributed £120,000.

Cllr Caroline Leaver (Liberal Democrat, Barnstaple South) welcomed the additional ‘active travel’ proposals (meaning cycling and walking) linked to the proposed station, including walking and cycling infrastructure, but queried how the name of the station was decided.

“One thing I have had fed back to me is that the announcement of the name came as a surprise and caused some dismay,” she said.

“I don’t know if that feedback has reached you, but I suppose it raises the question about the effectiveness of communication around the project.”

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