Making your comments count!
Writing an effective response
Whilst we're keen that each response in favour of the Wye Valley Railway path reflects positive personal reasons and passionate enthusiasm for supporting the proposals, please bear in mind that only comments relating to 'planning matters' or 'material considerations' are likely to be taken into account in assessing the application. Therefore, you are invited to consider the following points when writing your response, and especially recommended to refer to (at least) those outlined in paragraphs 1a-d & 2.
The new application overcomes all four grounds for objection raised by the Forest of Dean District Council in 2008, namely:
1a. Highway safety issues at the southern end of the route near Dayhouse quarry - overcome by extending the route south to Wyedean school in Sedbury(Chepstow). This will enable users to access the path directly from Chepstow, reducing the need for car use and ensuring ample parking provision near to the Chepstow end of the route.
1b. Previously inadequate consideration to bats and other protected species - addressed by new proposals which improve the habitat for hibernating bats in Tidenham & Tintern tunnels. A new ecological survey reports that route construction is likely to increase biodiversity by allowing more light to reach the forest floor. A proposed schedule for works minimises disturbance to hibernating species. These proposals have been developed in consultation with the statutory body, Natural England.
1c. Concerns over insufficient parking provision - addressed by the application Transport Assessment. Notably, the extension of the path to Wyedean school (see 1a above) where agreement has been reached to allow parking during weekends and holidays, provides previously unavailable capacity. Elsewhere in Chepstow, surveys demonstrate a surplus of available parking spaces, all within a few hundred metres of Wyedean school. At the northern end of the route, users will be directed to currently available parking in Tintern, including additional capacity recently developed at the Old Sawmills site
1d. Highway safety concerns over the path/road interface at Bishton lane bridge - overcome by redesign of this access point, which includes bridge retention/strengthening and removal of previously proposed parking spaces.
Application supported by local Council Policy
The new application is supported by existing Council policy, notably:
Forest of Dean District Council Local Plan Review:
Chapter 4 (Tourism, Recreation and Leisure), policies FTRL.1 & FTRL.4 (see esp paragraph 4.30)
Chapter 6 (Built Environment), policy FBE.1 (point 3)
Chapter 7 (Transport), policy FT.5 (also paragraphs 7.4, 7.9, 7.15, 7.38, 7.39)
Chapter 8 (Natural Environment), policy FNE.2 (Conservation and Enhancement of Landscape)
Monmouthshire County Council Unitary Development Plan:
Chapter 2 (The Environment), policy ENV7
Chapter 9 (Movement), policy MV4, paras 9.5.8-9.5.15
policy MV5, para 9.6.17
Supplementary Planning Guidance for Cycling – para 4.11
Application supported by National Government Policies
The Department of Transport's national policy framework places a strong emphasis on encouraging sustainable travel, with specific emphasis on walking and cycling. The Active Travel Strategy outlines government policy for walking and cycling, and promotes a vision for increased activity to support a sustainable future as well as environmental and health benefits.
The Department of Health's Be Active, Be Healthy national strategy provides a framework for the delivery of physical activity leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The strategy offers guidance for Local Authorities to help determine and respond to the needs of their local populations, providing and encouraging more physical activity, which will benefit individuals and communities.
The Department of Communities and Local Government sets out national guidance on planning policy.
The following national Planning Policy Statements provide a clear mandate for the the Wye Valley Railway path
1 - Delivering Sustainable Development & supplement 'Planning and Climate Change'
4 - Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth
6 - Sustainable Development in Rural Areas
13 - Transport
17 - Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation
The Welsh Assembly Government document 'Planning Policy Wales' provides the policy framework for planning authority development plans in Wales.
The following chapters provide a clear mandate for the Wye Valley Railway path in Monmouthshire:
Chapter 4 - Planning for Sustainability
Chapter 8 - Transport
Chapter 11- Tourism, Sport and Recreation
The proposals have the potential to remove local traffic from our roads, by offering an alternative means of travel in the lower Wye Valley for local residents and visitors alike. Many routine, work, school and recreational trips currently only safe and feasible by car will have an attractive alternative. Associated potential environmental benefits include reduced air and noise pollution.
Local economic benefit
The path is likely to bring significant potential business benefit to the valley, most especially to Sedbury, Tintern and Brockweir, where users will benefit from available shops, pubs and hotels. Increased income in the uncertainty of the ongoing economic climate would serve to support and reinvigorate the local business community.
The potential educational benefit of the path should not be overlooked. By offering easier access to the countryside for all members of society, opportunities for learning about and developing a respect for the natural environment will increase.
The level of local support for this application is considerable; over 1,100 people have pledged their support for the path. Analysis of supporters' post-codes provides compelling evidence demonstrating the focus of support lies in and around the lower Wye Valley. This path is therefore being supported by the local residents and their families, for whom it will provide an essential facility for generations to come.
Other reasons to support the path include:
- A route for local residents and visitors making short trips to heritage sites, the countryside and to nearby local towns and villages.
- To open up opportunities for local residents to access shops, schools and work places and other services on foot and cycle.
- To create a publicly accessible space for quiet recreation and exercise that will be attractive and free to use.
- A route which ensures that the natural beauty of the Wye Valley is not harmed, and that the existing visitor and recreation pressures are not exacerbated.
- A route which enhances the biodiversity of the former railway route.
- A route which conserves remnant railway architecture and opens it to public access
- Engages the local community in volunteering opportunities
- Provides information and interpretation of the cultural and environmental heritage of the railway route.
- Supports the development of sustainable transport by encouraging residents and visitors to travel in the area by cycle, or on foot, and public transport rather than by car.
- Benefits local businesses by encouraging visitors to arrive in the Wye Valley by means not involving car travel.
Further advice on commenting on planning applications is available at:http://www.rtpi.org.uk/download/7323/Sheet_9_Development_Control_-_commenting_on_planning_applications.pdf
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, the sustainable transport charity based in Bristol, 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.
Ben Fogle, Country Diary
The Sunday Telegraph (19/07/09)