RESIGNATION SURPRISE & MAGPIE TUSSLE NEWS

Horrabridge Parish Council met online again this week and heard that Councillor Paul Beard had resigned from his long-standing position as Chairman of Open Spaces – effectively supervisor of works on parks, paths, hedging and minor repairs, as well as a voluntary assistant to the council’s general handyman.

The council voted to send a letter of thanks to Cllr Beard for his services but no explanation of his decision was offered.

He did not attend the meeting and has not been available for comment since. The vacant position will be filled at the August meeting.

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Deputy council chairman Steve Roche reported that the temporary barrier erected by Barton Park Estates at their end of the footpath from Horrabridge to Magpie, when they started redevelopment of the caravan park, had become a six-foot bank topped with barbed wire.

Devon county councillor Philip Sanders, attending the meeting as a guest, said he would see if the county’s rights-of-way office could help.

The right of way recorded on most maps shows the path dog-legging up to the A386, 400 yards short of Magpie Bridge, but the exit point is a dangerous one and it has been local custom and practice for decades to carry on parallel with the river – first through Franco Farm fields and then through the Magpie Park entry. And the other way round. The landowners concerned tolerated a dwindling number of pedestrians using it, including park tenants walking to Horrabridge for the pubs and shops.

But after Barton Estates bought the caravan park in 2018, they started warning walkers that they were trespassing and at risk from builders’ traffic on their driveway. Then they erected a makeshift barrier with a Private sign. At the time, the Horrabridge Times was told the footpath issue might be reconsidered when the work was finished. Now it looks like it will be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the planning authorities.

There is help available for anyone willing to take on the work of trying to have an old byway made permanent but so far all Horrabridge has done about this one is grumble mildly.

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In the course of discussion on other matters, HPC chairman Eric Hemsil revealed that the council had lost £7000 of income from having to close the parish hall and might have to make up for it with a rates rise next year. A fitness class organiser had asked to start using it again. But the council decided the costs of anti-Covid cleaning would be prohibitive.

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The new picnic tables in Weir Park, installed by the council at a cost of £3,300, were generally agreed to be a success but concrete bases for them have been postponed until it is clear they are in the best places. Councillors discussed a resident’s letter complaining that they were encouraging drinking and bad behaviour but none of them agreed. They decided to leave things as they are but to keep an eye on the situation.

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Council has heard nothing yet from Devon Highways about repairing the damage caused by an unidentified large vehicle to the old central bridge – a big chip out of the stonework of the upstream parapet, in the middle, just above ground level.

However, a Horrabridge Times inquiry yielded the following statement from Exeter:

‘Our Bridge Inspector has looked at the bridge. It seems the damage is very minor, so we’ve added this to our works programme and it will be repaired when our team are next in the area.’

We said this seemed to imply a patch repair, using mortar, and although that might be good enough in practical terms, the local expectation was that an ancient monument would require replacement of the damaged stones.

The council spokesman checked back with Highways and said:

‘We have a very good working relationship with the District Council Conservation Officer. The scope of this minor repair will be agreed with them prior to the repair starting – his advice will be sought as to whether this work can go ahead or not. Given this will be a like for like repair, the character of the bridge will remain unchanged.’

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Meanwhile alsoBroken cemetery gate to be replaced by a smaller one, plus new fencing. Sports pavilion project all now dependent on raising funds, which has been made harder because all charities are prioritising Covid relief. Council has officially taken ownership of the broken church clock. And that’s

allfornow …

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Editor of The Horrabridge Times.