Decision due this summer on Knowle public rights of way

Angry Sidmouth residents gathered at Knowle Gardens in 2013 after having their application for a pub

Angry Sidmouth residents gathered at Knowle Gardens in 2013 after having their application for a public footpath to run through the grounds rejected. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 5623-26-13AW - Credit: Archant

Walkers may still be able to enjoy a stroll through the ‘upper terraces’ area of Knowle, even if proposals to build a retirement community on the site go ahead as planned.

The Knowle Residents’ Association had previously applied to have two footpaths in the parkland registered as public rights of way, with the aim of safeguarding the routes ahead of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) mooted relocation.

County council officials initially refused the application, but a government inspector subsequently overturned the decision.

EDDC then appealed against the inspector’s ruling. The authority has since given the final approval for its relocation plans - but a decision on whether to formally designate the footpaths has yet to be made.

One of the proposed rights of way runs from the road entrance to Knowle off Station Road to the ‘upper terraces’ area, which sit directly in front of the former hotel building.

The second runs around the rear of the council offices and down past the Knowle Depot to Knowle Drive.

EDDC has already agreed to ‘appropriate’ the upper terraces section of the park, which will be sold along with the existing offices for redevelopment.

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But a district council spokeswoman confirmed this week that, if a government inspector deems the paths to be public at a hearing later this year, any building that takes place will have to take the decision into account.

Keith Northover, chairman of the Knowle Residents’ Association, said the group was getting its evidence together in preparation for the public inquiry on September 15.

He told the Herald: “We wouldn’t be going through this whole process if we didn’t think we had a good chance of winning it.

“We are fighting to have two public footpaths recognised which had previously been awarded to us by the planning inspector.

“We had offered to deal with through correspondence, but the planning inspector insisted that they held a proper public inquiry.”

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