Planners set date for site visit to controversial village signal box
KINGSWEAR residents will have to wait to see if their objections to a £200,000 signal box office block will be upheld or turned down.
South Hams Council planners have decided to organise a full site visit before making a decision.
Opponents to the two-storey building at the Kingswear steam train terminus believe the building should never have been erected in its present location.
They claim they have not been consulted by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company and maintain it was built without planning consent.
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The steam railway company has always insisted it did not need planning consent because, as a statutory undertaker, it can build whatever it wants on its own land which is the track between Paignton and Kingswear.
This was confirmed to them by South Hams Council, but the company was later told its permitted development rights did not apply, in this instance, because the land was in, or close to, an area of outstanding natural beauty.
After a year of pressure from residents, the company filed a retrospective application for the signal box building and another one for removing more than 30 metres of listed rail track.
Dr Richard Rawlins, the secretary of the Kingswear Action on Rail and Riverboat Development action group, told South Hams Council's planning committee: "This block, on this site, on this scale is unnecessary.
"The aim of development in conservation areas is to preserve and enhance the area. This development doesn't. It has led to the loss of public view which has resulted in loss of amenity to the general public, visitors and residents and listed railway track."
He added: "Whose evidence and opinion do you prefer? The vast array of objectors with no vested interest other than to preserve our conservation area and listed buildings, or officers who have been consistently wrong on these particular issues?"
Annie Lovell, of Kingswear Parish Council, added: "This building has taken away the lovely view across the River Dart and of Dartmouth from Kingswear.
"We can no longer see the river. We can no longer watch the Dartmouth Regatta from the pub or watch what is going on the river. There was no need for this building to be where it is. It could have been in Churston or Paignton."
Andrew Pooley, managing director of the railway company, said the firm had spent £200,000 on the building to make sure it was sympathetic to the area while allowing for a better control and management of the 850,000 passengers per season who go from the steam train on to the riverboats across the Dart.
He told the planning meeting: "As a business we contribute some £46million to the local economy and employ 60 full time staff and 40 regular seasonal staff.
"We are the biggest regional attraction in term of footfall."
Following issues about some of the documents filed as part of the application and a defeated 21-day adjournment vote, councillors voted 14 to seven for a full site visit, which is now scheduled for Monday.