Plans for path at Maiden Newton a 'total waste of money'

Plans for path at Maiden Newton a 'total waste of money'

Published by The Wessex FM News Team at 11:31am 18th June 2020. (Updated at 11:30am 20th June 2020)

A resident has slammed the proposals in a letter to the council

One resident says the £18,000 project is “a total waste of money” and will destroy homes for reptiles who live on the site.

Madeleine Duke said in a letter to the council’s area planning committee:

"It appears the suggested path is intended to give disabled access to the sustrans route/footpath from the station to Chilfrome Lane.

"I contend that this is totally unnecessary as there is a gate to the station platform which gives paved access to this path with no steps or slopes to negotiate and which is available to the public.

"It would be a total waste of money and would moreover destroy the habitat of protected species."

Maiden Newton trailway path - area to the left is where ramp will go
Maiden Newton trailway path. The area to the left is where the ramp will go.

Another letter to the planning committee made similar comments.

An ecology report for Dorset Council says that a 150 square metre patch of ground which will be dug up and surfaced alongside the access road to the former rail station provides an all-year round home for adders, slow worms and grass snakes as well as other creatures.

Trees will also be felled to make way for the three-metre wide cycle path.

The total cost of a mitigation plan for the reptiles, which is part of the planning consent, amounts to around £5,000 with a £13,000 bill for the construction works – over £1,000 per square metre.

Maiden Newton trailway path - area to the left is where ramp will go 5

The ecology report says that the new path is likely to make the site unviable for the creatures with a loss of 50% of their habitat and with a high risk that, unless they are moved elsewhere, many will be killed or injured during the construction phase.

The council says it has a mitigation plan for the creatures, but is not planning to move them.

Work on the project is expected to start in late summer or early autumn, according to a council statement, but it also says that this may be delayed, depending on the on-going Covid 19 situation.

Said a council spokesman:

"There are no plans to move the reptiles off site. The link is being built at the top end of the site where the habitat isn’t favoured by reptiles and where none were found.

"The plan is to make the rest of the site better for the reptiles by taking out invasive ground covering plants such as ground elder and to strip off some of the rich topsoil leaving subsoil which will be sown with a wildflowers grassland mix.

"Three log/brushwood habitat piles suitable for reptiles and amphibians as hibernacula and also cover for hedgehogs will be created. We will also be removing broad-leaved dock, nettles and thistles and planting some native trees at the top of the site.”

Maiden Newton cycle track - reptile home on left
Maiden Newton cycle track, with reptile home on the left.

The council says that both the construction and biodiversity mitigation costs will be met by donations from local people who support the project.

The Maiden Newton link is part of a long term project to create a trailway between the town and West Bay following, where possible, the route of the former branch railway line.

A project brief says the existing short flight of steps to the station platform is unsuitable for horses, bicycles, wheelchairs and pushchairs.

Maiden Newton station - the area to be cleared is behind the trees

It says that the overall project is supported by Dorset Council, Maiden Newton Parish Council, Sustrans, Cycling UK, British Horse Society and the Dorset Cyclists Network.

The three metre wide ramp will have a tarmac surface with a tar and chip surface dressing that will provide sufficient grip for horses and will be usable in all weathers. The surfacing will resemble a gravel path helping it to blend in more with the natural surroundings.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter