Otter Estuary restoration scheme is dynamic and forward-thinking - but it will affect traffic in our village
PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 October 2020
Otterton Parish Council John Hiles explains why they have opposed the Lower Otter Restoration Project
While supporting the principles behind a multi-million-pound scheme to safeguard Budleigh’s sea defences and prevent a failure of the River Otter’s embankments, fears for the impact it will have on the village have prompted Otterton Parish Council to recommend refusal for the plan.
Parish Council chairman John Hiles explains the reasons behind the decision:
For many, the far-reaching benefits of the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) mean it should be implemented without delay, but as parish councillors, our duty is to represent the interests of our parish.
With that in mind, when the planning application for the project came before us, whilst acknowledging the merits of this exciting scheme, we were not able to support it because of the impact it will have on traffic in our village.
Otterton’s neighbourhood plan identifies high-traffic volume and a lack of parking as major concerns for our community – it stipulates that developments which exacerbate these issues should not be supported.
As a council, we are bound to follow the guidance within this plan and, although we support the principle of the LORP, our repeated calls for more parking to accommodate the increase in visitors to the area that it will generate have not been addressed.
Since the launch of its exploratory phase six years ago the LORP has triggered many objections (besides those raised from within our village) and as part of ongoing dialogue with the main stakeholders we have seen most of these addressed, but our highways concerns remain unresolved.
The scheme involves the creation of 150 acres of mudflats which will attract wading birds and other wildlife.
According to EDDC figures, Seaton’s wetlands drew in 70,000 visitors in 2019, although this is a larger area it does give an indication of the level of increase we can expect.
The LORP avoids acknowledging this rise in visitors and in doing so makes no extra
parking provision (the new car park outlined in the scheme for 30 vehicles planned at South Farm merely compensates for the loss of existing roadside parking on South Farm Road).
In the summer, Lime Kiln Car Park was often at full capacity - there were occasions when traffic was parked along Coastguard Road up to the hospital – this gives an indication of the existing demand at peak times. Many walkers and wildlife enthusiasts choose to park in Otterton and walk along the river from our village – the draw of the new wetlands means we can expect thousands more cars annually.
We welcome visitors to the village and the increased revenue for our businesses – but these people need somewhere to park, we are not well served by public transport.
We also have to consider Ladram Holiday Park, at the other end of our village.
This is an established business accommodating thousands of holiday makers in the summer and requiring wide enough access through the village for towed caravans and mobile homes on HGVs.
At peak times when the village is congested with parked cars these vehicles struggle to get through – this situation will worsen.
We are lucky to have many attractions in the parish – Otterton Mill, the river itself, the Kings Arms, access to the South West Coast path, as well as Ladram Bay - having the new wetlands, a short walk down the river will add to the village’s appeal, but this new asset must come hand-in-hand with supporting infrastructure.
We have suggested the provision of a free car park alongside the river as a solution.
We recognise the LORP as a dynamic, forward-thinking proposal with countless benefits and are only too aware that it has taken years to bring the project it to its present phase (many of us have been involved throughout).
However, our role is to serve Otterton and we cannot overlook the significant effect this scheme will have on traffic congestion in our village – raising safety and pollution issues and disrupting the lives of our parishioners.
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