Bid to gauge support for rail line cycleway
A MEETING is to take place as part of a campaign to create an Otter Valley cycleway.
It is hoped a cycleway could be established along the disused railway line between Feniton and Sidmouth via Ottery St Mary and Tipton St John.
Ottery St Mary councillors Roger Giles and Claire Wright are driving the initiative with support from the King's School, particularly teachers Jo Elliott and Jason Wood.
All are welcome to the meeting which is being held in the Kings School canteen at 7pm on Thursday, October 18.
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The range of presentations will including Peter Grainger from Sustrans as well as individuals who have been involved in creating similar schemes.
King's School students are expected to present their own ideas for the project.
People will be invited to pledge their support and find out how they can help drive it forward.
Cllr Giles said the idea of a cycleway on the old railway line was first raised around 15 years ago and the county council subsequently supported in principal the conversion of some of the disused railway lines identifying the Feniton to Sidmouth line as suitable.
"Over the years I've lobbied for it from time to time to push things forward," he said. "The meeting is about gauging public support for the idea and getting people to sign up to developing the project further, for example through campaigning to get it delivered sooner rather than later."
Cllr Giles said he hopes people will also come forward to form a committee or task group to get the project off the ground.
In May Cllr Giles and Cllr Wright went into the King's School and found that many of the young people were enthusiastic about the idea and the school has offered its support.
Cllr Giles said the project could well cost several million over a number of years but the benefits are already proven with the success of other cycleways such as the Exe Estuary Cycle Trail and the Tarka Trail in North Devon.
He said engagement and negotiations with landowners along the route would be key to the process.
It is likely the first phase would be Feniton to Ottery.
"The boost to tourism would be huge," Cllr Giles continued. "And it would provide an attractive opportunity to cycle and a link between communities."
Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council portfolio holder for highways and transportation, who is working hard on establishing the final part of the Sid Valley Trail between Sidford and Sidbury, said that there were many issues that had to be overcome before the project could get under way, such as liaison with land owners along the route.
Although supportive of the project he said it was likely to take up to ten years to deliver and funding would need to be secured so was keen that people realised that this was a scheme that could not be delivered "over night".