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Petition to protect Grand Union Canal conservation area

Saturday, 22 June 2024 07:51

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

Lowdwells Lock on the Grand Union Canal (Image courtesy Devon County Council)

Housing could encroach if changes made

More than 1,600 people have signed an online petition against proposals that seek to revise which parts of Mid Devon’s Grand Western Canal should remain a conservation area.

The petition, launched by Cllr Tim Bridger, who sits on Tiverton Town Council, has secured 1,667 signatures since it was launched on Wednesday 5 June.

Cllr Bridger calls the Grand Western Canal the “jewel in the crown” of Mid Devon, adding that it is a “haven for wildlife and nature”.

He said the canal had been protected from development and encroachment for 30 years, but there are fears that reducing the size of the conservation area could lead to the building of new homes nearby.

“A developer has already submitted plans for large-scale housing right next to the canal around Tidcombe Hall,” he said.

“These plans have previously failed due in large part to the conservation area designation.

“Development here would hugely damage the biodiversity of the area, and impact tourism, health and well-being, and access to nature.

“We need our district council to preserve the existing Grand Western Canal  conservation area, and improve the biodiversity of the lands, not damage our beautiful countryside.”

The proposals are the subject of a public consultation, which has been prompted by a requirement for councils to reassess conservation boundaries to ensure they remain relevant and don’t protect land that lacks special interest.

The subject was discussed at length at the council’s cabinet meeting earlier this month, with comments from members of the public and councillors outlining concerns.

At that meeting, it was agreed that a public consultation on the proposals should be undertaken.

Leader Luke Taylor (Liberal Democrat, Bradninch) read out an email at that meeting from a concerned resident who said she and others would “robustly oppose” any changes given there were “no reasonable grounds” for them.

The strong feeling from residents is fuelled, in part, by a planning application for 100 homes at nearby Tidcombe Hall.

The scheme is yet to be decided by Mid Devon’s planning committee, but residents raised concerns that the proposed changes to the canal’s conservation area could work in favour of the development’s applicants.

“Feelings are running high, and councillors and Mid Devon District Council need to look at the bigger picture,” one resident’s letter said.

The proposals suggest removing parts of the conservation area to the east of Tidcombe Hall, a woodland area within Tidcombe Hall, as well as changes in Sampford Peverell, Halberton, Burlescombe, Ayshford and Lowdwells.

A proposed addition is the Grade II listed lime kilns in Canonsleigh, which are currently just beyond the conservation area.

The cabinet agreed to an eight-week consultation to give time for residents to respond.

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