Ottery’s ‘lifeline’ bus service is saved - but long term solution still needed

The public bus currently makes a regular visit to Slade Close. Ref sho 7132-06-15SH. Photo Simon Hor

The public bus currently makes a regular visit to Slade Close. Ref sho 7132-06-15SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Ottery’s town bus has been saved after strong opposition was voiced over its proposed withdrawal – but funding is still needed to secure its long-term future.

The daily 381 service was due to be axed under Devon County Council (DCC) cutbacks.

Now, the town has been urged to follow Sidmouth’s example in self-funding a bus service in the long run.

Councillor Claire Wright has pledged almost £2,000 from her county locality budget to help keep the 381 running on a reduced three-day-a-week timetable.

Cllr Wright said: “It is very sad that such an important lifeline in Ottery is being cut – but at least it won’t be lost completely and I am pleased to be able to keep the bus going for three-days-a-week.”

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Devon’s highways and transportation boss has warned this is a short-term solution and suggested a town-funded bus, similar to Sidmouth’s Hopper service, might be a long-term option for Ottery.

Councillor Stuart Hughes confirmed DCC will meet the rest of the funding required to keep the reduced bus service running, but said the authority will be looking to withdraw its contribution in the autumn of 2015.

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The free-to-use seasonal Hopper bus that serves Sidmouth is funded primarily by businesses, the town council and a civic society.

Cllr Hughes said: “It appears to me it is a golden opportunity to do what Sidmouth has done and put some funding towards this.”

Ottery mayor Glyn Dobson said a number of residents have spoken to him of their distress if the bus is axed.

He said the issue is not something the town council has discussed yet, but it is likely to be on the agenda at a meeting on Monday.

The 381 service currently relies partly on soon-to-be-expired funding from Sainsbury’s as part of an initial development agreement.

A DCC spokesperson said: “We’re open to any possible source of external funding.

“Normally, once a developer has met its financial obligations under a planning agreement, it is not willing to provide further funding thereafter, but it is still worth pursuing.”

The new 381 timetable will be effective from Tuesday, April 28.

A public consultation on DCC’s proposed transport changes ends on Monday, April 20.

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