Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of interest in the planning application we have put forward for a cycle hub, cafe and off road cycle trails at Plymbridge Woods.
The following list of questions and answers has been provided to help people understand the rationale behind the planning applications and some key details from them.
1. What are the planning applications for?
- There are two planning applications submitted at Plymbridge
- The first is for a café building in the meadow at Plymbridge. This will include outdoor and indoor seating areas, toilets and cycle hire and is designed to cater for all outdoor users
- The second is for a total of 6.8km of blue ‘moderate’ grade cycle trail and 2.9km of red ‘difficult’ grade cycle trail, plus 3 skills areas where cyclists can ride the same section of trail a number of times. These trails are aimed at novice and intermediate skilled riders, not downhill specific mountain bikers. These cycle trails will be free for people to use.
- Two separate planning applications have been submitted because the café is a conventional building but the trail development is a more unique project. The planners are considering both applications together and one won’t go ahead without the other.
2. Why does the National Trust want to provide off-road cycling trails?
- It is often felt that outdoor spaces have been the Trust’s best kept secret. The Trust wants to play its part in helping to reconnect the nation with outdoor spaces. The provision of well-managed off-road cycling facilities at strategic locations play a part in this.
- The National Trust are developing initiatives to promote their presence in the countryside, encouraging people to enjoy the unique delights that time spent outdoors in remarkable landscapes can offer. This is in line with the National Trust strategy, “2010 and Beyond”. Similar projects to that proposed at Plymbridge have already been undertaken at Leigh Woods,Bristoland Castle Ward,Northern Ireland.
- The Trust wants the next generation to grow up loving and caring for the British Countryside. It wants to provide facilities that appeal to them, introducing them to the outdoors so that they can grow to love it, not feeling that it is not relevant and therefore not important to them.
- According to the 2011 Health Profile for Plymouth(www.apho.org.uk), the health of people inPlymouth is generally worse than theEngland average. About 16.5% of Year 6 children are classified as obese and a lower percentage than average of pupils spend at least three hours each week on school sport. As a popular youth sport, mountain biking in woodlands can make an important contribution to the Government’s health agenda (Bingley and Milligan, 2007).
- A survey by the Childwise research agency in 2008 found the overall time spent in front of screens by 5 to 16-year-olds in Britain was nearly six hours a day; some of this could be time that the previous generation would have spent outdoors with family and friends, but that the new generation choose not to due to a lack of activities that appeal to them.
- Plymouth Schools Sports Partnership already use Plymbridge for cycling and it will be of huge benefit to have purpose built trails that they and other local groups can use.
3. Who is involved and where is the funding coming from?
- The National Trust is a delivery partner in the 1 South West Regional Cycling Project to encourage health, well-being and economic prosperity in the south west.
- Development at the sites will be funded through the Sustainable Rural Tourism Fund, administered through the Rural Development Programme forEnglandand National Trust funds. The revenue generated by the café will allow us to employ additional conservation staff.
4. Somebody said Plymouth City Council is spending £4.8m on these cycle trails – is that true?
- The project is funded by European Development monies and the National Trust, not Plymouth City Council.
5. Why has Plymbridge been chosen as a suitable site for this development?
- Plymbridge already has a considerable level of cycling activity on the easy SUSTRANS Route 27 and vey technical riding at Cann Woods. There is no formal facility for novices and beginners to off-road cycling and the Project will deliver this.
- Just under a third of the country’s population does not have access to a car and very few countryside areas are truly accessible. Plymbridge is easily accessible to the resident population ofPlymouthwithout a car.
- Due to its location Plymbridge is accessible to a large number of schools and groups that would be able to use the trails as part of their curriculum or group activities.
6. Why not put the trails in Cann Woods?
- At present there is an area in Cann Woods that local riders use to build very technical mountain biking trails. This is tolerated and monitored by the Forestry Commission and the area provides a place for experienced thrill-seeking mountain bikers.
- To put family and novice focussed trails next to the existing area of trails in Cann Woods could easily lead to extreme riders crossing the routes at speed or novices ending up on a very technical trail by accident.
- The Plymbridge woodlands get much less current use by the ‘extreme’ mountain biking fraternity as it is less suitable than Cann Woods. The National Trust has always resisted illegal trail building.
- It is better to geographically segregate the different user groups (zoning) so that novice and intermediate riders are on the National Trust side of the river, more extreme mountain bikers are on the Forestry Commission side of the river, and general cyclists ride the SUSTRANS Route 27 in the valley.
7. Why are you building the café on a greenfield site?
- The car park will not be used as the site for the café as there is an ongoing need for car parking spaces at the site.
- The necessary surveys have been undertaken by Devon Wildlife Consultancy to ensure limited impact on the environment and wildlife. NaturalEnglandhave been consulted despite not being a statutory consultee.
- The meadow by Plym bridge is already heavily used by dog walkers, runners and other users and is kept very shortly mown.
- The café will be designed and built to suit its setting, for example, it will be constructed with a ‘green roof’ and using locally sourced material.
- The café will include an information point for all site users and will be a venue that the local community and schools can use for meetings, events and exhibitions.
8. Is there a risk of flooding to the café site?
- The Environment Agency has been consulted and advised that the café should be raised slightly above current ground level to ensure flooding is not a problem.
9. Won’t these trails be damaging to the ecology / wildlife of the woodlands?
- The National Trust is a body with conservation at its core and has worked hard to conserve the wildlife value of these woodlands for many years. It will continue to manage the woodlands with this at the forefront and would like to increase the opportunities for members of the public to enjoy and appreciate the woodlands. The National Trust will always adhere to statutory requirements and recognised best practice in wildlife conservation.
- Trees. There will not be the need to remove any trees to build the trails, the trails weave around trees and use them as ‘features’. There may be some minor limbs that need removing for public safety.
- Badgers. One irregularly used badger sett was identified during the ecological survey. This will be avoided by the line of the trail.
- Bats & Dormice. These have been considered in the build method statement and recommendations by Devon Wildlife Consultancy and the Planning Authority’s ecologist.
- Ground Flora. A Phase 1 Habitat survey has been carried out by Devon Wildlife Consultancy to ensure any sensitive areas are avoided. The trail disturbance will be along a very narrow corridor and has minimal impact once natural re-growth takes place. This methodology has been used at another sensitive site in 2011 (Ashton Court in Bristol) in close liaison with Natural England and has been very successful. No seeding will take place, natural re-growth will ensure native species and seamless natural vegetation cover.
- Deer. In their report, Devon Wildlife Consultants have not identified any negative impact on deer as a result of the project. The experience of building similar trails at other sites is that any existing deer population continues to thrive, such as Haldon Forest Park near Exeter.
- Peregrine Falcon. The National Trust has been a key partner in protecting the nesting site at Cann Quarry and the birds that nest there. The nesting site is a good distance from the lines of the proposed trails, and there is no indication that the current SUSTRANS Route 27 has had any impact on their behaviour. We therefore cannot envisage any impact from the proposed cycle trails.
- Bluebells. During the design of the trails we have tried to focus on areas where there are existing breaks in the bluebell cover. It is impossible to completely avoid bluebells because they are so prolific. However, due to their prodigious growth no long term impact is expected. The trails will enable thousands of people to pass through and enjoy the bulebells without damaging them.
10. What will the trails look like?
- The trails will be a maximum of 1.2m surfaced width and will be constructed out of local stone, not tarmac. Once landscaped and bedded in, trails will be discrete and will have a similar surface to existing trails on the site.
- For the purposes of planning consent a ‘corridor’ is submitted which allows the final line of the trail to be moved slightly on the ground to accommodate for twists, turns and to get the best possible micro-fit in the landscape.
- The photo below is a blue ‘moderate’ grade trail atAshton Court, one month after construction in 2011. The Plymbridge trails will be built to the same specification.
11. What about the safety of other users?
- Trails of this nature have been safely implemented at many sites across theUnited Kingdom. Each site has individual challenges but through careful planning, one-way cycling, safety signage and the use of features along the trails the safety of both riders on the track and other users of the woodland is preserved.
- These trails are not designed and will not work for extreme downhill mountain bikers that are focussed on speed. The trails are designed to regulate the riders’ speed at all times and give an engaging and flowing ride.
- By building bespoke cycling trails we will limit the amount of time that cyclists and walkers spend on the same pathway, and where they do share a route, it will not be on a steep slope. Skills areas will be introduced to improve the ability of novice riders and therefore improve the safety of all woodland users.
- Regular inspection and maintenance of the trails will be undertaken by the National Trust.
12. Won’t the site be inundated by cars?
- A full Highways plan outlining options for traffic management has been submitted. Our decision to not introduce pay to park and to monitor site usage has been agreed with the Plymouth City Council Transport and Highways Department.
- We will be heavily promoting the car-free access that the site enjoys from the centre ofPlymouth.
- It is hoped that the Park-and-ride car park at Coypool will be available to all visitors at weekends, which is the peak time that non-local users will wish to visit the site.
- There are currently no plans to increase the size of the car park, however, it will be redesigned to increase capacity.
- We wish to encourage people to travel to the site without using a car.
13. What about litter?
- Unfortunately litter can already be a problem at Plymbridge as with many such sites.
- National Trust staff and volunteers will continue to undertake regular litter clearance at the site, this may have to be increased in frequency as and when necessary.
- The Café will display information regarding the importance for the site and discouraging litter and other damaging undesirable activities.
14. What about anti-social behaviour?
- Plymbridge has historically suffered from some anti-social behaviour. Having a National Trust presence in the meadow and more users travelling through the woods should reduce this; there will be more people reporting issues swiftly across the site, deterring anti-social behaviour.
15. Where will electricity and water come from?
- Water and electricity for the café will be supplied to the site but this will not be implemented until planning consent for the Café is granted.
16. When will it happen?
- If planning applications are successful we hope to start construction of the trails and café in November 2011 so that facilities are open for late spring 2012.
- Full details of the planning applications can be seen on Plymouth City Council’s website at www.plymouth.gov.uk/planningonline. Alternatively, they can be viewed at the First Stop Civic Centre and at Plymouth Libraries where public internet facilities are provided.
- The planning application number for the café build is 11/01074/FUL and for the trail build it is 11/01254/FUL.
- Telephone guidance is available from the Planning Admin Team on 01752 304366.
- This document will be updated as more questions come in, or to clarify any queries. To view the latest version please visit National Trust Dartmoor Facebook and Twitter pages.
- If you have a specific enquiry please email the National Trust at Dartmoor@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01752 341377.