21/07/2007

Ystwyth Trail Cycle Route on track for completion


NOTES FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH ALUN ON RADIO CEREDIGION'S TALKABOUT SHOW WITH STEVE EDGE ON 20th JULY

The Ystwyth Trail is a, so far, partially-built 21 mile long route for cyclists and pedestrians between Aberystywyth and Tregaron based around the old railway line to Carmarthen

Route
The path starts off at Aberystwyth Football Club, goes across Pont yr Odyn footbridge, and down Felin y Mor Road. When all the work is done, it will then go along the route of the old railway line past Pen Dinas, through Rhydyfelin, Llanfarian, Llanilar, Trawsgoed, Ty’n y Graig, Ystrad Meurig and almost to Tregaron.

Old railways
Old railway lines are fantastic for cycle paths because they’re virtually flat paths, created with incredible effort by labourers in the 19th century. Often they had to dig straight through rock to keep the route flat. The Carmarthen line was closed in the 1960s after the Beeching report. If they’re not going to be used again for railway lines (which would, of course, be great) then they’re ideal for cycling and creating a cycle track is a fantastic way to make the best of all the work that’s been put into creating the tracks in the first place.

Funding
The path has received £1.4 million of Objective 1 funding because its recognised that it will create employment through the tourist industry.

Tourists v. local users
I’m slightly uncomfortable with the path being viewed as simply a route for tourists. For me it’s just as important that local people use it. And I’m particularly hoping that some people will use the section from Llanfarian, through Rhydyfelin into town to get into work in the mornings. This section will be tarmacked (the rest is compacted dust - not quite as fast as tarmac but still quite adequate for cycling.) so it’ll provide a good easy run into town. Certainly the inspector mentioned this in his report.

I’m not optimistic enough to imagine that it could make a big difference to the queues of traffic trying to get into Aber during the morning rush hour, which regularly stretch back as far as Llanfarian, but I do think we need to be offering people as many different transport choices as possible to reduce the congestion and it could make a small difference.

Compulsory Purchase Order
There has been a little bit of resistance from a few landowners along the path of the route so, after a public enquiry, the Council has now obtained a Compulsory Purchase Order to connect up some sections of the route that it’s not been possible to up to now and, most importantly, to build the Aberystwyth to Llanfarian section.

The Inspector at the public enquiry said that the Council’s proposal was well thought out and he said there was a compelling case in the public interest for the creation of the whole route. And of course landowners are fully compensated and the Council will work with them to erect any necessary fences and gates along the path.

The bad news
It’s not all good news. Towards the Tregaron end there will still be two sections of track that landowners have not released and that the Council has decided not to pursue as part of the Compulsory Purchase Order, even though they’re not in use and are very well suited to a cycle path. This means that in those places - near Trawscoed and near Ystrad Meurig - the route has to take fairly substantial detours along bridle paths and B roads which are quite steep in sections. That may be fine for committed, fit leisure cyclists but it does spoil the continuity of the route for local commuters and for families with small children.

I can understand why some landowners might feel threatened by the idea of cyclists going through a piece of their land but I think its based on misconceptions. People who use cycle routes are some of the most law-abiding sections of the population. There’s a wider public interest here and a wider economic interest for North Ceredigion in that cycle tourists bring quite a significant amount of money into an area. And I think its debateable whether its right for one or two people to be able to effectively veto the coherence, if you like, of the path for everyone. And that will lessen the economic benefits of the path.

But we have to accept what’s happened for now and, anyway, there are plenty of positives, particularly about the Aberystwyth end of the path. And I’m looking forward to next April when it should all be fully open.

Walkers and the disabled too
Of course, although we’re calling them cycle paths here, the paths are also great for walkers and, in many places, for the disabled who are now seeing parts of the countryside opened up that were never open to them before.

Sections in use now
Llanfarian to Llanilar and Trawsgoed
A section from the far side of Trawsgoed to approaching Ty’n y Graig
The section across Cors Caron

Work to be done soon
Work is taking place now at the Tregaron end
The Aberystwyth – Llanfarian section is due to start in October
The section between Ystrad Meurig and Ty’n y Graig will be started towards the end of this year.
It’s hoped that everything will be in place by April next year. Funding runs out in June so it will need to be done by then.


Despite the drawbacks I've mentioned, the completion of the Ystwyth Trail will be another step towards making Wales a cycle-friendly nation.


WANT TO SEE A COPY OF THE PLANNING INSPECTOR'S REPORT ON THE COMPULSORY PURCHASE ORDER? E-mail me your address at alunw@ceredigion.gov.uk and I'll send you a hard copy.

2 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 23, 2007

    Do we know why the council decided not to pursue compulsory purchase of these two sections of the trail or why the inspector accepted this result?

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  2. Good question. When I asked Council Officers this I was given to understand that the Council decided not to pursue these two sections after strong lobbying from the councillors for those wards on behalf of the landowners. Because the Council did not request that the Compulsory Purchase Order should cover these sections the Inspector was not able to consider them.

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