All posts by Friends of Ashburton Station

Residents of Ashburton – Speak Up Now

You may have already heard that the Friends of Ashburton Station (FoAS) and South Devon Railway Trust (SDRT) sought legal advice over Dartmoor National Park Authority’s (DNPA)handling of the Chuley Road Masterplan. The outcome was that DNPA planners had not followed the process set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (‘PCPA 2004’) and the Town & Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 (‘the Regulations’) correctly. A letter submitted to DNPA by the SDRT solicitors brought DNPA’s attention to this fact and offered them the opportunity to correct this. As a result the masterplan has been rescinded and its’ status returned to ‘Draft’.

In basic terms the part of the process in question is the consultation and the way it was, or was not, undertaken. Legal advice was sought on the grounds that we felt the consultation process was flawed, which has been proven to be correct. The rescinding of the masterplan is unlikely to change the end result but it does however give the residents of Ashburton one final chance to make their voices heard and speak up for what they want to see. Ultimately, it will be down to the local community, rather than the enthusiasts, whether the reinstatement of a railway connection with the SDR and Network Rail is ever to be possible.

We have heard mixed opinions regarding the railway being returned to Ashburton but it is very difficult to gauge to overall feelings of the town. It is because of this we are asking the residents of to fill in this questionnaire, our aim is to try and gauge the honest opinion of Ashburton, its’ residents and businesses.

We will pass on all submissions to Dartmoor National Park Authority and hope that it gives an honest and genuine view from the town.

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The details of how Chuley Road could be developed around a returning railway are still very much open to further discussion with all interested parties. All we are trying to gauge at this point is whether Ashburton supports the concept of the railway returning and would like to see their station restored to its original purpose and see steam trains return or not.

Please fill in the form below and let us know your views. We would be grateful if you would fill in your town and Postcode, this is so we can confirm which answers are from the residents of Ashburton, although we are of course happy to hear from anyone.

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Fields marked with an * are required

Planning Application

A planning application has been submitted to Dartmoor National Park Authority that will affect the old route of the railway through to Ashburton Station, effectively it will prevent any future potential to re-connect Ashburton Station to the South Devon Railway.

Please submit your comments to DNPA, we suggest your comment is based around the fact that part of the application compromises the footprint of the former railway line and that you object to any housing being built on land that will preclude any future possibility for re-instating Ashburton’s Railway Station and to link it back with the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh.

Comments (before 25th Sept)  can be made online at http://www2.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?councilName=Dartmoor+National+Park&appNumber=0441/15 or by post to

Planning (quoting the application number 0441/15) Dartmoor National Park Authority, Parke, Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9JQ

Information

Brewery Meadow, Ashburton. (Also known as Tuckers)

DNPA  Application Number 0441/15

Outline application for re-development to 32 residential units, public parking and flood channel works (all matters reserved)

For further information and to see the detailed application please follow this link.

If you know anyone who lives in or around Ashburton please get them to submit their comments – they are likely to be better considered than hundreds of comments from ‘ousiders’.

Update – 12th August

FoAS has been working with the South Devon Railway Trust (SDRT) and others to investigate the potential merits and risks involved in challenging the Masterplan further. We’ve taken professional legal advice and have consulted many who have experience in the field.

Following these discussions, some legal work is currently in progress. We can’t comment further at this stage, and would ask that you respect the sensitivity of the topic in your discussions online. The SDRT has funded this initial work, and would welcome donations towards the cost. For more information on how you can make a donation please click here. It’s very important to stress that this is preliminary work, with no obligation or commitment to launching a judicial review at this stage.

The next point is also very important.

Further legal action, or other actions to further the project,  would not only require significant funding, but a major commitment of time and energy on the part of those who wished to take it forward.  Having worked tirelessly to take the campaign to its current point, the present FoAS committee does not feel able to resource such a project in its current form, and we are now calling for those who feel passionately that this fight should continue to take more of a leading role. If you feel you can offer the necessary commitment, time and skills to play an active and immediate role in continuing the campaign, please contact  info@friendsofashburtonstation.co.uk.

From all our discussions it’s clear there remains great passion, both inside the town and out, for a continued campaign to protect and fully exploit Ashburton’s railway heritage. The challenge now for those who wish to continue the campaign is to convert their passion into the practical effort and, ultimately, funding required to move this on to the next stage.

Update – 10th July

A brief note on behalf of the FoAS Committee to let you all know where we are.

Having taken some time to reflect on the DNPA decision to accept the Masterplan, our group has several potential courses of action. We’re currently taking advice from a number of bodies, and talking to organisations and individuals whose support has been instrumental so far, about how they see the next stage. We’re also listening to new ideas and offers of help.

We feel sure you’ll appreciate these discussions are live and sensitive, and it wouldn’t be right to elaborate in this public forum. For similar reasons, it isn’t appropriate for us to enter into some of the discussions on social media right now. But rest assured, we all do monitor the threads very closely, and we also read and consider every comment. We will be privately following up on your many welcome ideas and offers of help.

It’s been really heartening to see that, far from dampening spirits, the DNPA decision has actually redoubled our group’s passion for the fight for Ashburton Station. Whatever the next steps, we feel sure this will serve the group well. The Committee is mindful that time is pressing on, but because our next move will be an important one, we know it must be made with careful consideration and planning.

Thank you for your continued support.

Update – 3rd July

Friends of Ashburton Station are, of course, extremely disappointed with DNPA’s decision to accept the Chuley Road Masterplan, thereby denying Ashburton the opportunity of the benefits of a heritage railway connection in the future. 

We are exasperated by the determination of planners to dismiss our calls for changes to the Masterplan. Our group of volunteers have worked tirelessly to demonstrate to DNPA the potential social and economic benefits a railway could bring to the town. Despite a wealth of support from the local community, businesses and national bodies, they have chosen not to listen.

Instead, DNPA has accepted a report from its planners in which no railway bodies have been consulted, a report which consequently contains several major inaccuracies. In doing so, Members have endorsed the short-sighted predisposition towards other uses for the site, and have not given a fair hearing to the railway proposition.

We will be considering our options over the coming days. Meanwhile, we encourage anybody with a view on today’s decision to contact Peter Harper, DNPA Chairman, and the other members as a matter of urgency, see the following link for their contact details – http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/aboutus/au-theauthority/au-members/members

1420’s Last Trip to Ashburton?

This Saturday (4 July 2015) is likely to be the very last time that a former Great Western Railway steam engine will ever visit the sleepy Dartmoor town of Ashburton when diminutive old GWR 0-4-2 Tank No. 1420 is hauled dead — out of steam and without a fire in its belly — through the narrow streets on the back of a low loader for the local Carnival in order to say a final goodbye to the town it once served so well. 

The former station — with it’s wonderful, almost unique Brunel-designed overall timber roof and once the terminus of a 10-mile branch line from Totnes in South Devon — will probably never again hear the whistle of a steam train.

This is despite the efforts of our group of local people and railway enthusiasts who wish to see the town’s historic station and route protected so that it might one day re-join the nearby South Devon Railway which has run its steam trains down the scenic valley of the River Dart for the last 46 years since 1969 and that now carries 100,000 passengers a year.

The reason for the ‘fond farewell’ by the steam engine, owned by the South Devon Railway, is because Ashburton station and part of the track bed is set to be swept away under a new so-called ‘Masterplan’ for the Chuley Road area of the town which will be discussed by the Dartmoor National Park Authority this coming Friday (3 July), and whose members are expected to simply ‘rubber-stamp’ the recommendation of their own planners.

Under the plans, Ashburton station and the area around Chuley Road will see a convenience store and houses built over it despite howls of protest from many quarters about a lack of vision and ambition for the site; a failure to acknowledge the railway’s strong history in the town, and the enormous potential for the future which bringing steam trains back would provide as has been seen already in many other parts of the country.

National railway magazines and several web forum groups have flocked to support our campaign, we have been supported too by many local people and businesses who do not wish to see the town’s nature changed for the worse by such a development and also lose a potentially, lucrative life-line that would bring visitors right into the town centre with its vibrant local shops, but without their cars which could be left at the South Devon Railway’s nearby large station car park at Buckfastleigh.

We are urging local people to lobby members of the Dartmoor National Park Authority this week in the hope that they will kick out the Chuley Road Masterplan and safeguard the station site and track bed for the future and the time when trains might be able to return again to Ashburton.

Our group Chairman Alasdair Page said: “The visit by steam loco No. 1420 to Ashburton this coming Saturday will be a poignant one if the National Park Authority members vote to endorse the seriously flawed Masterplan the day before as recommended by their planners. 

“Once the historic Brunel design station is gone, then it’s gone forever and the opportunity lost.”  

“All we are asking for is for the site to be protected from development so that steam trains might yet return one day in the future. We know it’s an ambitious hope, but it’s one with real substance and a great chance for the town’s future.”

Assuming the Masterplan is adopted, the former Ashburton branch steam loco No. 1420 (which last left the town by rail in October 1971 just before the A38 was built over the track bed to then sever the rail connection) is expected to carry a fitting “Farewell to Ashburton” wreath as part of the Ashburton carnival procession which will run through the town from 6.30pm.

Our Last Chance?

Friday 5th June is when the final decision of whether to adopt the Chuley Road Masterplan goes to the members of Dartmoor National Park Authority. Please read our Statement regarding the report produced by DNPA planning department and then please send a correspondence to Mr Peter Harper (contact details below) voicing your support for a railway to return to Ashburton and any additional comments you may have. Get as many people as you can to do the same, this could be our last chance to be heard!

Mr Peter Harper (Chairman)

Peter Harper

Appointed By:

Secretary of State for the Environment

Address:

Dartmoor National Park Authority
Parke
Bovey Tracey
Newton Abbot
Devon
TQ13 9JQ

Telephone:

01647 253203

South Devon Railway Statement

The Masterplan recommendations about the future of the Chuley Road site in Ashburton have now been published on the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) website ahead of the DNPA meeting to determine the future of the area this coming Friday, 5th June.

Whilst strong local lobbying  by the ‘Friends of Ashburton Station’ has highlighted the town’s unique railway heritage and also gained considerable local support from businesses and townspeople to safeguard the route and station for the future,  their campaigning would appear to have fallen on deaf ears with the DNPA planners, resulting in just minor changes within the Masterplan.

Commenting on the report, South Devon Railway Trust Chairman Alan Taylor said:

“The South Devon Railway Trust has supported the ambitions of the Friends of Ashburton Station in seeking to protect the old station buildings and route of the former railway from development so that our steam trains might once again return to the Dartmoor town at some point in the future.”

“So, we read the conclusions of the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) report with both sadness and disappointment — a veritable railway heritage gem of the Great Western Railway in Ashburton station has not been safeguarded from development, and the unique opportunity to protect the railway’s route into the town for the future and the considerable benefit of the town which it would bring has seemingly been spurned.”

“Despite letters of support from DNPA following a previous engineering feasibility study about our trains perhaps returning to Ashburton, we were not consulted during the recent consultation into the Chuley Road Masterplan and were only made aware of the details at a very late stage in the process.”

“As a result, our opportunity to provide fully detailed proposals for returning the railway to Ashburton was severely limited. Whilst additional information was provided to the DNPA planners during the last few months, we were still not consulted during the creation of the “Ashburton Railway – Appraisal of Options Report (April 2015)” which contains many inaccuracies.

“We still believe that failing to safeguard a route for a future railway reconnection is a lost opportunity that Ashburton will regret. We also hope that this decision by DNPA doesn’t result in the town sleepwalking into oblivion by adopting a plan that draws people away from the town centre rather than bringing them to it.”

“So, I make a final appeal to the members of the Dartmoor National Park Authority to think again ahead of this decision and to come and visit the South Devon Railway this week to see how we operate and what Ashburton might be missing out on – they will be made very welcome!”

An appraisal of the railway proposals, including the town’s former railway station, can be seen at Item A5:- http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/575863/For-Web-FDraft-Appendicies.compressed.pdf.

For a general overview of the Chuley Road scheme and links to other relevant publications, see: – http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/planning/pl-forwardplanning/masterplans-and-development-briefs/ashburton-masterplan

Friends of Ashburton Station – Response to DNPA Ashburton Railway Appraisals.

We are extremely disappointed to read the recommendations made by DNPA planners in the final draft of the Chuley Road Masterplan. In not recommending that former railway land is safeguarded for future reinstatement, it is clear that DNP’s desire for short-term development (and immediate wish to sign-off the Masterplan) has totally eclipsed calls from our community for a scheme with the potential to bring major long-term benefits to the town.

We are not, however, surprised. DNPA failed to consult any railway bodies during the creation of the Masterplan, in spite of a letter of support from DNPA officers for an earlier engineering feasibility study into the reconnection of Ashburton station to the line at Buckfastleigh. DNPA has been unable to offer any kind of justification for this, and therefore the community must draw its own conclusions regarding the integrity and fairness of the Masterplan process.

The lack of railway consultation has severely disadvantaged our community’s ability to make a case for the retention of the trackbed and to have it fairly heard. We feel that DNPA’s requirements for ‘evidence’ to support our case for alterations were wholly unachievable in the timescale allowed, and that consequently our case has been judged unfavourably and unfairly dismissed.

Furthermore, the reports themselves contain some major errors which would not have been made if they had been correctly undertaken and informed by sufficient research on the part of DNPA planners. We strongly question the validity of a report appraising the reopening of a railway in which not a single official railway body has been consulted by DNPA.

We would like to offer some corrections to the reports which we feel could otherwise lead to misrepresentation:

  • Stated at various points in the reports –“Compulsory purchase powers would not be available to acquire the land and DNPA has been advised that the likelihood of acquiring the land by private negotiation is remote.”

Correction – A railway, even if a heritage line, is a statutory body incorporated in law by an act of parliament. It can therefore seek to obtain compulsory purchase powers. These powers have been exercised by several heritage railways.

  • Stated in the reportsA38 crossing (Buckfastleigh) – in order to achieve this crossing (proposed in the feasibility study as a tunnel structure beneath the dual carriageway) land will be required beneath the A38, and part of Meadow Park (park homes site). This could involve the direct loss of approximately 4 residential properties, and an immediate impact upon at least a further 5 properties.”

Correction – Our proposed route avoids the loss of any residential properties – even if the original River Dart crossing point was used, it would result in the loss of only one residential property.

  • Stated in the report– “Mogul’s Palace (Dart Bridge) – land would be required in order to achieve the bridge approach to the River Dart crossing, the crossing of the River Ashburn, and a tunnel or new bridge structure beneath the B3380 at the Dart Bridge interchange (adjacent to the River Ashburn culvert). This area has a number of engineering challenges to overcome within a relatively small area. Aside from the cost and feasibility of the engineering works, the land acquisition cost and ability to acquire such land is currently unknown. The scale of the work and land take is likely to result in little residual land value for the remainder of this site.”

Correction – Our proposed route at this point would be to the eastern side of the Ashburn which is currently little more than waste / scrub land. It would have a minimal if any effect on the Mogul’s Palace site.

  • Stated in the report– “It is also important to bear in mind that the intention is not just to achieve a physical rail link, but to create a heritage rail line attractive to visitors. Whilst there may be opportunities to create a route tight with the A38 in places in order to limit land take and engineering works, this may not be desirable in this respect.”

Correction – Our proposed route would be tight to the A38 for the reasons set out above but it would have little effect on the attractiveness of this section of the line as views are limited by the general lay of the terrain anyway. The attractive ‘draw’ for visitors is the destination of Ashburton town centre.

  • Stated in the report –“…visitors will inevitably be attracted direct to Ashburton by private car. Whilst a business model might aim to encourage them [to] Buckfastleigh, the attraction of joining the railway at one end or the other, rather than part way along the line may well mean this aim only has limited success.”

Comment – There are many heritage railways that successfully attract passengers to start their journey at their headquarters that are not a terminus of the line.

  • Stated in the report – “Peartree Cross– ….Landowners in this location have not been approached by FoAS, and DNPA has been advised that land may not be available for this use.”

Correction – We have made initial contact with the main landowner at Peartree Cross. – Also see below.

  • Stated in the report“No evidence of landowner support. Little evidence of community support.”

Comment – We were advised by officers of DNPA not to consult with landowners, the officers also pleaded with us “not to get any more letters of support” as they “had received enough correspondences” and did not want any more. How can it be reported there is limited evidence of community support after advising us of that?

  • Stated in the report “South Devon Railway has advised the proposal was for a station at Peartree as it was not considered possible to extend the scope of the work to include the crossing of the Peartree junction at that point in time. However once beyond that junction it was considered a relatively simple engineering operation given the existence of the track bed for much of the remaining route. It was also considered that the significant cost of extending the route to Ashburton Station was beyond fundraising capabilities at that time.”

Correction – The South Devon Railway actually stated the reason the feasibility study was undertaken by Exeter University students and due to time restrictions they could not complete the full study they would have liked to, so the decision was taken to reduce the scope of the study to before Peartree Cross. There was no attempt to raise funds for the project at the time as the South Devon Railway was concentrating on obtaining the Freehold of the current line. If the project had been undertaken it was never a consideration to have the station at Peartree but to take the line all the way to the original station.

 

Whilst we welcome DNPA’s increased recognition of the heritage significance of the station buildings, they have ignored our warnings that the viability of a Heritage Centre on the site is dependent on safeguarding the potential for reinstatement of the line. Our research, recently presented to DNP Members, suggests that future rail development is key to unlocking the funding and effort required to establish and maintain a Heritage Centre.

Having secured a meeting in April with DNPA’s governing Members, in which we demonstrated the potential long term benefits of safeguarding the trackbed, we hope that Members will not accept the recommendations of this flawed report from their planners.