Teign Estuary Trail Breakthrough

MW
6 Dec 2023
Welcome to Bishopsteignton

Leader’s column - Good News for the Teign Estuary Trail.                                               6 Dec 2023

I was delighted last week that Teignbridge District Council voted unanimously to direct £1million from its Community Infrastructure Fund (CIL) towards unlocking the long-awaited Teign Estuary Trail.

The success and popularity of the Exe Estuary Trail, which links Exmouth to Exeter and Exeter to Dawlish, has been outstanding - and has proved a model for future schemes.  The trail provides walking and cycling along a scenic flat route away from most traffic - and is used for leisure, commuting or simply enjoying the beautiful area in which we live, by a large cross-section of the public.

The Teign Estuary trail would be transformative also, connecting Teignmouth through to Newton Abbot - and all points in between and beyond - including the Stover and Wray Valley Trails, with routes to Dartmoor and as far afield as Moretonhampstead.

For over 10 years, the project had been unable to take constructive steps forward. Although planned in considerable detail in partnership with Devon County Council (and more recently having been granted planning permission) moving beyond the drawing board had proved a funding conundrum.

The traditional method of delivering a public project is to complete the planning, seek funding, buy the land and then build the scheme.  An alternative method for a larger scheme would be to build sections of the project and link up when and where possible. This would not work however, as the Teign Estuary Trail could be only be fully funded with a business case based on the trail going all the way through from Teignmouth to Newton Abbot.

Local government funding is hand-to-mouth, while the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ opportunities have tight criteria and even tighter timescales. Normal funding rules essentially mean you would need the land to get the money - and you need the money to get the land.

A chicken-and-egg situation – and a fresh perspective required.

For many years the Teign Estuary Trail Campaign Group has been working to help raise the profile of the project and make it a national infrastructure priority.  This September, I was invited to a meeting about the scheme which included Campaign Group members.  Hosted by Bishopsteignton Parish Council, the options already considered were discussed, alongside with the issues that blocked progress. As the meeting progressed, a new idea was hatched. 

There was enough funding put aside in Teignbridge’s CIL pot for the land to be purchased, however, while there was insufficient to build all the elements of the scheme immediately, once purchased, a new council-owned permissive path could be opened - and a more compelling business case assembled.

The Teign Estuary Trail is now primed as a project to take advantage of whatever funding we may see from Government beyond its near-exhausted ‘Levelling Up’ fund. Hailed by Government as the means of kick-starting investment in local authority schemes, in reality it has fallen considerably short, with many projects struggling with timely delivery in the wake of the covid pandemic, conflicts abroad and continued economic uncertainty following convulsions in Whitehall.

Now central Government would instead offer a ‘Devolution Deal for Devon’.  But will this Deal make a difference - and will it bring forward more readily available investment for Devon and for projects such as the Teign Estuary Trail?

All that will be certain is that, regarding Devolution, the Devil will be in the detail!

Martin Wrigley Parliamentary candidate