Fears bus cuts would isolate villagers

PUBLISHED: 08:03 06 February 2015

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Plans by county chiefs to cut funding to a bus service to Otterton have been strongly opposed by the parish council.

Councillors discussed Devon County Council’s proposal, to withdraw the subsidy which sends the Exmouth to Sidmouth 157 bus into the village, at their meeting this week, and resolved to research passenger numbers to build their case before responding to the county council’s consultation.

Otterton Parish Council chairman Councillor Tony Bennett said: “Our chief concern is the isolation of the village.

“People who don’t have cars depend on the bus to go to the shops in Budleigh, to the surgery, to the pharmacy, and for entertainment, so it is used quite a lot.

“The suggestion they could walk from Otterton to Otterton Cross is unrealistic, because people who use the bus are mostly elderly people or very young people, and it’s quite a long walk and a pretty dangerous road to walk up.”

County councillor Christine Channon said that she had been reassured by Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highways, that no villages would be cut off by the council’s cuts.

She said she had been told that the county council was in negotiations with Stagecoach, and hoped that it could be persuaded to readopt the Otterton leg of the journey without subsidy, due to the recent drop in fuel prices.

However, she added that she was hoping to obtain usage figures for the bus to help the Otterton villagers’ case, though she thought these might understate the usage, as people get off the bus in Otterton to go walking, and it could be that only people who get on the bus there are counted.

Cllr Bennett said he had concerns that people who rode using bus passes might not be counted, and would be leaving notices at bus stops to try and get an accurate picture of the overall usage.

The county council’s consultation on the changes, aiming to cut £1.7million from its public transport budget county-wide, runs until April 20.

To have your say, visit www.toughchoices.co.uk

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