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Written by Al Findlay   
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:13

If you have been an avid Ottery Gazette reader for a long time, you will have read various reports about a proposal  to create a cycleway on the old Feniton - Ottery - Tipton - Sidmouth railway line which closed in 1967. Very many people have told me they support the project, which has the official support of Ottery St Mary Town Council. The cycleway project now has a campaign group behind it – King’s School students!

Campaign for Cycle trackCllr Claire Wright (Ottery St Mary Town Council`s Young Persons Champion) and I went into Kings on 14 June to talk to a group of year nine students talking about local government, about engaging with politics, and how young people can influence decision-makers, and how young people can make a difference. Together with form teacher Jo Elliott we talked about how local young people had helped deliver the skate park.

The students were then asked what they would like to see in Ottery. Not surprisingly there were many varied suggestions. One idea that attracted much enthusiastic support was better cycling facilities – this included cycling proficiency training, creating a cycling club, and having a Kings ‘Cycling Ambassador’.  

The idea that attracted most excitement was the creation of a cycleway on the old railway line. The students recognised the many benefits that such a cycleway would produce - an attractive off-road route through very attractive countryside for local people to enjoy; a route that would bring many people to East Devon to cycle and to spend money in local shops, pubs and hotels. The Camel Trail in Cornwall and the Tarka Trail in North Devon have produced a substantial boost for their local economies. It would provide a safe off-road route on which children can learn to cycle, allowing more journeys to be made by bike or on foot and increasing health and well-being. It would also meet sustainable transport objectives by helping reduce accidents, reduce pollution and reduce congestion, and of course it would enable more people to cycle safely to school.

As we know, Kings has many very bright students. But they don`t just talk about things - they do things! Before we knew it, the class had agreed to campaign for the cycle route. The students were realistic - they recognised that the cycleway would require substantial funding, and take a great deal of hard work.

Look out for details of a public meeting, probably in the Autumn, to move this vitally important project forward.

ROGER GILES
Devon County Councillor for Ottery St. Mary Rural  19 June 2012