Salcombe Town Council have been pressured by an officer at South Hams District Council to withdraw their support for a public footpath to be established through the Crofts.
In August, the gates leading to Croft Fields were chained and padlocked by the landowner, despite it being used as a footpath by residents for many years.
In November, a presentation was made to the town council for a potential ‘low density ecological development’ on the fields. RLT Architects and Eden Design said the development of six luxury houses would be ‘an opportunity to enhance the landscape and ecology of the area.’
No application has been submitted, but it is understood that the developers are in pre-application discussions with South Hams District Council.
Devon County Council have confirmed that ‘there is no public right of way’ through the fields, and RLT Architects have promised to ‘maintain designated and non-designated footpaths’ in any development.
At the town council meeting on Wednesday, March 8, town mayor Cllr Mike Fice explained the council had been asked by David Parkes, a development specialist at SHDC, to withdraw the council’s request to establish a public footpath through the fields, on the grounds that it is complicating discussions between the landowner, the developers and SHDC.
But when Cllr Fice put the request to the council, there was unanimous support for not withdrawing the application. Cllr Fice said the council merely “collated” requests from residents in the town to make the application.
Cllr Fice said: “We were asked by a significant number of residents to support them in keeping this path open and to actually get it registered as a footpath. We were surprised to be asked by South Hams District Council to remove this request.”
It is understood that several members of the public have also submitted a ‘user evidence form’ to Devon County Council, to request that a public footpath be established through the fields.
A spokesperson for Devon County Council said: “The county council has received an application from Salcombe Town Council for a definitive map modification order to record a footpath from Shadycombe Road to Gould Road, Batson Creek in Salcombe, across three fields.
“The application is currently going through a validation process, to check whether it has been properly made, before it is entered onto our register of applications.”
A South Hams District Council spokesperson said: “The council were surprised that legal action had been actioned to establish a new right of way over a privately owned piece of land, without an attempt to consult the landowner.
“We always encourage collaboration and cooperation between land-owners and communities and while we cannot comment on the legal rights in this case, we would always advise a community in such cases to seek a dialogue with the land-owners to try and resolve any issues.”
Any member of the public can fill in DCC’s ‘user evidence form’ to attempt to establish a public right of way, if it can be established that the path has been actively used for a significant period of time.
The form can be found on the Devon County Council website at www.devon.gov.uk by searching for ‘public rights of way user evidence form’.