Masterplan for regional park 'half the size of Exeter' agreed

    The Clyst Valley Regional Park is set to consist of a number of greenspaces linked by greenways and will extend from Clyst St George to the south to Killerton House to the north, and to the Cranbrook Country Park to the east. A masterplan, which was consulted on in 2020, has been produced to set out a long-term, broad guide to how the Regional Park could develop and to set out the big picture and the general direction of travel and opportunity.

    CLYST VALLEY PLAN

    A 25 year masterplan that will help the future delivery of a new regional valley park that will cover land ‘half the size of Exeter’ and guide planning decisions within its boundary has been agreed.
    The Clyst Valley Regional Park is set to consist of a number of greenspaces linked by greenways and will extend from Clyst St George to the south to Killerton House to the north, and to the Cranbrook Country Park to the east.
    A masterplan, which was consulted on in 2020, has been produced to set out a long-term, broad guide to how the Regional Park could develop and to set out the big picture and the general direction of travel and opportunity.
    It articulates the potential benefits of delivering projects and in so doing, it will be used to support funding bids, attract investors, and to pull in partners and resources to work up and deliver projects.
    East Devon District Council’s strategic planning committee, when they met on Tuesday, unanimously agreed to approve the Clyst Valley Regional Park Masterplan as a guidance document to inform the future delivery of the Regional Park and to support decision making on planning applications within the policy boundary of the Regional Park.
    Simon Bates, green infrastructure project manager, in his report to the meeting, said: “The masterplan is the first attempt to achieve a shared vision, objectives, and values, and agree on the priorities for the next five years,” and said that a further report around delivery of some of the aims would be brought forward later this year.
    Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council portfolio holder for coast, country & environment, added: “We need to protect and enhance the countryside and this is one of the main drivers for the regional park. We must not destroy the very reason we love this beautiful place.
    “I’m delighted that this exciting plan has gone through a full public consultation. The Coronavirus pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance of spending time outdoors to our health and wellbeing.
    “We received more than 240 representations from people and organisations, with much support for the Regional Park and we have carefully considered each one. Devon is well-known for its countryside with national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, estuaries and beautiful coastline. But there is greater pressure than ever on these stunning locations.
    “With a growing population, it is necessary to provide much-needed homes, jobs and infrastructure. As more people explore the countryside, it is imperative that we protect and enhance our green spaces because getting active outdoors keeps us healthy and happy, plus the countryside can help us address climate change by storing carbon and water, as we work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The Clyst Valley Regional Park will play a valuable role in providing new open spaces near major growth areas.
    “It will ensure that the new town of Cranbrook and developments close to Exeter are provided with large scale, high quality greenspace. The Clyst Valley Regional Park will enhance the land surrounding the River Clyst and its tributaries, with linked green corridors enabling people to visit the outdoors via cycleways and footpaths.
    “The Park will improve biodiversity, for example through natural woodland regeneration, urban tree planting, creating nature reserves, and helping to reduce flooding by careful natural water flow management.
    “The creation of the Regional Park will help reduce the pressure on more environmentally sensitive locations and help to conserve heritage assets, protecting our cultural identity. It will be managed to the highest standards.
    “The Clyst Valley Regional Park is becoming a reality and pieces of this jigsaw are coming together. There are Country Park’s at Cranbrook and at Pin Brook, the first sections of the Clyst Valley Trail are being built and 3,500 broadleaved trees and shrubs have been planted through the ‘Great trees in the Clyst Valley’ initiative.”
    The masterplan adds: “The Clyst Valley Regional Park is crucial for the health and wellbeing of a growing population, and to restore the natural capital on which we all depend. The purpose of this masterplan is to define a shared vision, objectives, and values as a platform for partnership in developing the Regional Park.
    “The unique social, environmental and economic context are identified, as are the policies, strategies and targets of organisations that could be delivered in the Regional Park.
    “The masterplan will be a material consideration in assessing planning applications within the Clyst Valley Regional Park policy boundary. It should be used by land owners, developers and their agents as additional guidance on how, and where, green infrastructure can be delivered.”
    Objectives of the masterplan are:

    To enhance the health and wellbeing of residents, to create opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to learn outside the classroom
    To protect irreplaceable habitats, restore natural processes, ensure that internationally important wildlife sites achieve their conservation objectives, and increase the size, quality, quantity and connectivity of priority natural habitat and populations of key species
    To rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to extreme weather events and rising sea levels, to achieve good ecological status in the River Clyst and tributaries, enhance natural flood storage, and restore soil health
    To restore landscape character and promote local distinctiveness and to maintain the high landscape setting of Killerton,
    To protect historic landscapes, sites, buildings and their settings, enhance them where appropriate and promote public access to and enjoyment of them.

     
    Cllr Mike Howe, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, added: “This should be the starting point for the Local Plan. If we are serious about wildlife and the environment then we cannot keep policies cutting across wildlife habitats and need for them not to be cut off by roads and industry.
    “I recommend this as a starting point for the Local Plan and we need to be clever and careful with what we are doing, as if we ignore this then we are not doing what we set we would at the beginning.”
     
    The Regional Park cannot be achieved simply through development control, councillors were also told, as with objectives for health and wellbeing, nature gain, climate mitigation and adaptation, education and volunteering, soil and water, heritage, and jobs, it requires complex multi-stakeholder initiative requiring coordination, innovative funding and the cooperation of private landowners.
    The masterplan is the first attempt to achieve a shared vision, objectives, and values, and agree on the priorities for the next five years, and includes a series of major projects that are set to be delivered over the lifespan of its 25 years.
     
    MAJOR PROJECTS
    Ashclyst Forest
    The National Trust provides access to 272 hectares of the forest along a choice of colourcoded trails ranging from 2.4 km to 11.3 km, and including a 3.5 km butterfly trail suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. The forest is an important site for pearl-bordered and small pearlbordered fritillary butterflies, 12 species of bats, dormice, and breeding birds. It is probably of national importance.
    The National Trust plans to make the forest a more-attractive and enjoyable destination for walking, cycling and horse-riding. The intention is to create a visitor hub at Ashclyst Farm and an outdoor field studies centre at Caddihoe, the latter in collaboration with the Scout Association.
     
    Bishops Court
    A hugely important piece of the jigsaw. Ownership is split across three private land holdings but all have a desire to protect and enhance the natural and built heritage.
    Over the next five years, parkland tree planting should continue alongside protection and maintenance of the existing old trees, one of which (an English oak) is estimated to be 700 years old.
    A new permissive path and picnic area in Alder Croft woodland could create a circular trail from Sowton village without needing to use Bishops Court Lane, which is a ‘rat run’ during rush hour. A strategy needs to be defined, and funding secured, to restore, and if possible, provide public access to the wonderful tithe barn and stables.
     
    Clyst Canopy
    This is a multi-agency & landowner project to bring about a generational transformation in tree cover. Tree canopy cover in the Clyst Valley is estimated at 9.3 per cent but because trees have multiple positive benefits, we are proposing a minimum target of 20 per cent canopy cover is achieved during this 25-year plan period.
    The Clyst catchment is 155 km2 (15,500 hectares) of which about 10% (1,550 ha) is tree canopy, so a doubling would equate to about 1,550 ha or up to around 3.8 million trees planted, at an average of 150,000 trees planted per year.
     
    Clyst Valley Trail
    The Clyst Valley Trail will be a commuting and recreational trail for walkers, cyclists, mobility scooters and where feasible, horse riders. It will link the Exe Estuary trail with the historic Killerton House and Park, via an existing multi-use trail from Broadclyst. There is future potential to reach Ashclyst Forest and the Exe Valley Way
    It will provide a direct, safe, green route to employment centres at Science Park, Sky Park, and close access to Exeter Business Park & Sowton Industrial Estate. On the way, it passes through historic parkland at Poltimore, forming the backbone of the new Clyst Valley Regional Park.
     
    Hayes Farm
    It provides a green buffer between the housing at Mosshayne and the Lidl warehouse as without this the landscape of the Park would be severed at this point, and the site is the only remaining recreational green space of useable size for the community of Clyst Honiton.
    Planning obligations secured the enhancement of wetland habitats within this project area, including reed bed and additional wet woodland. There is potential to site a bird hide overlooking this small reserve, and a remote camera in the ‘bat house’, designed solely for the protection of a population of bats, could be an excellent educational resource.
     
    Lower Clyst
    This is a very significant area of freshwater grazing marsh and fen. It is at risk from sea level rise and the river banks downstream of Winslade Barton will not be defendable in the long term. Sea level rise will lead to the loss of internationally important mud and sand flats on the Exe Estuary, and this loss will have to be compensated by inter-tidal habitat creation elsewhere.
    The route of the proposed Clyst Valley Trail from Darts Farm follows the ridge to the east of the river. This will be a multi-use trail, but a return footpath following the toe of the ridge back to Dart’s Farm offers great opportunities for screened wildlife viewing of the river and marsh, whilst also providing a beautiful circular walk for all abilities.
     
    Mosshayne
    Mosshayne Farm is situated just north of Blackhorse/Clyst Honiton and together with the Hayes Farm site it is an important piece of green infrastructure between the new Lidl distribution centre to the east and land allocated for housing to the west.
    The owner is keen to explore options for willow biomass or habitat creation (meanders, ponds, fen, wet woodland, marshy grassland) in conjunction with 1.7 km of river restoration and enhanced public access.
     
    Pin Brook
    The Brook is an important wildlife corridor flowing out of Pinhoe and into the River Clyst and is being delivered in connection with Linden Homes. The 7 ha Minerva Country Park has now been delivered by Barratt David Wilson Homes and, subject to contract, will be managed by EDDC Countryside Team. A further 3 ha immediately adjacent to it has been secured as public greenspace.
     
    Poltimore House & Park
    Poltimore House Trust and their dedicated volunteers continue to make excellent progress towards the conservation of the house and gardens. Paths in the arboretum have been improved and there are plans for a disability ‘sensory garden’ route. Full restoration of the house is acknowledged as a multi-million pound project.
    A planning obligation has secured the restoration of 34 hectares of this parkland in connection with housing at Old Park Farm, which includes the restoration of the old carriageway and establishment of a public bridleway along it, extensive tree planting and linear permissive public access for 30 years.
    A further 13 ha of this land is part of the 1840’s parkland extension. The land should be protected via extension of the Regional Park policy boundary, with new public access and replacement tree planting delivered as part of a holistic restoration scheme.
     
    Winslade Park
    Winslade Park is a late-18th century mansion built for an East India merchant. The sale particulars of 1905 noted the ‘pleasure grounds of great natural beauty’.
    They slope away from the mansion in a southerly direction, and contain a large number of specimen trees. The terrace walk (early-19th century) along Grindle Brook, an ornamental lake formed by the widening of the stream, and parts of the kitchen garden survive.
    It is hoped that a mixed use redevelopment of the site could secure the historic park and garden for public access along with the restoration of the sweeping carriageway, possibly as part of the Clyst Valley Trail.
     
    Woodbury Parish traffic-free routes
    The Parish Council has identified the following projects to be traffic-free and wildlife corridors.
    The route from Exton to Woodbury along the “historic route” running alongside Gilbrook to be made into a shared route for walkers and cyclists but not for motor vehicles
    A new walking route from Woodbury Cricket field to the start of the existing walking route leading upward from Cottle’s Farm and the “area” to be designated a wildlife corridor. Increase the number of hedge trees and width of hedgerows;
    Designate Gilbrook, Woodbury Wood and Rushmore Wood a wildlife corridor
    Designate the whole length of Porter’s Lane and Stoney Lane a Quiet Lane and to increase the number of hedge trees and width of hedgerows
    Designate Castle Lane and Warkidons Way Quiet Lanes and protect the upper stretches of Warkidon’s Way
    Develop routes from the Parish to Clyst St George and Clyst St Mary using existing roads around Postlake and Bonds Lane
    Include two new areas in Woodbury Salterton to enhance the wildlife corridor
    Reduce the speed limit along Village Road in Woodbury Salterton to make it a “shared” route
     
    Aylesbeare Stream & Holbrook
    The Aylesbeare Stream and Holbrook are important biodiversity corridors connecting extensive habitat on the heathlands at Aylesbeare with extensive habitat in the Lower Clyst valley. They also connect with hotspots of biodiversity at Rockbeare (parkland), Beautiport Farm (broadleaved woodland and grasslands), and Farringdon (parkland and ancient woodland).
     
    Grindle Brook
    The Grindle Brook is characterised by smaller floodplain meadows and patches of riverine woodland. There are also some traditional orchards. It is an important biodiversity corridor. A public footpath passes through the site too. No other land is in an agreement and in many places intensive arable cultivation takes place right up to the river.
    The reversion of arable to pasture and new woodland via natural regeneration would considerably enhance biodiversity, landscape, water quality and provide greater natural flood storage.
     
    Treasbeare
    Land is safeguarded as SANGS and is contiguous with the existing Cranbrook County Park and also with the proposed greenspace at Rockbeare Court. The potential therefore exists to create a large, linked publically accessible greenspace with natural habitats, and enhanced landscape, as a buffer to Rockbeare village.
     
    Cranbrook to Exeter
    As Cranbrook expands eastwards and new housing comes forward at Tithebarn and Mosshayne, this will provide an alternative off-road commuting and recreational route . The route begins at Station Road and proceeds around the back of the Amazon/Lidl warehouse. A new bridge crossing of the River Clyst estimated at £1 million is required.
     

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