We’ve heard today that the steering group for the Chuley Road Masterplan will meet next week. The Dartmoor National Park (DNP) planners will present them with their appraisal of our case, and a decision should be reached on the five ‘options’ relating to a railway presence on the site.
In their latest newsletter, DNP identified these options as:
1) The conservation of railway heritage buildings within the site, with public access to those buildings where possible;
2) The conservation of Ashburton Station building, and use as a railway heritage centre;
3) The safeguarding of a route for the future provision of a new railway line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton (in combination with option 2);
4) The provision of a new railway line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton, with a station which lies short of Chuley Road (in combination with options 2 and 3);
5) The provision of a new railway line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton Station (in combination with options 2 and 3).
In our meeting with DNP Members at Parke on April 17, we reiterated our position on these options, as informed by the work undertaken to prepare our written submission. Crucially, we explained our view that the viability and sustainability of Option 2 is dependent upon Option 3; that is, we believe that safeguarding the route for potential reconnection of the (original) station is crucial to the viability of a heritage centre on the site, both in financial terms and the motivation of individuals and third-party organisations. Option 3 is therefore fundamental to the group’s support of any heritage use of the site.
Option 4 is, of course, at odds with our focus on the original station, and we consider this to be both undesirable and unsustainable because neither the original station nor the centre of the town would be served.
We can feel confident as a group that we have done everything within our power to make our voices heard and to influence the planning process, as far as that is possible in this case. Indeed, we have constantly tested the boundaries of our capability as a community group – unpracticed in challenging the Planning machine – to ensure that our case is judged on its long-term potential rather than short-term ease of delivery. We have won the support of so many passionate individuals, locally and internationally, and the backing of major organisations. We have achieved sustained local and national press coverage, and prompted healthy discussion throughout the community about what they really want. We have fought for an audience at the highest level in the authorities, and have won many allies, some rather unlikely.
We should find out next week whether all this has made a difference.