Following on from protracted correspondence with Countryside, Planning Officers and City Councillors, a meeting with representatives from Countryside and the City Council finally took place on Tuesday 19th November to discuss the footpath links between Channels & Beaulieu.
We walked around the Beaulieu site and were shown where new key links from Channels would be provided including whether these would be primary (hard surfaced and lit) or secondary (gravel and unlit).
Unfortunately it transpired that residents of Channels will have to endure the majority of the winter months with the only access to and from Beaulieu being via a dark and muddy bridleway or dark gravel paths.
Whilst there is recognition that the over-arching planning for joining up the developments could/should have been dealt with better, there is very little that can be done to resolve the current situation.
The pathway that leads from Niblick Green (parallel to the existing bridleway and past the new play park) should have been hard surfaced and lit around the time the play park opened in June 2019. However there have been significant technical issues experienced with the buff tarmac in other areas of Beaulieu (and Channels) and as such this part of the project has had to be re-specified, re-approved and re-scheduled. Had the path been hard surfaced and lit in line with the original timescale, there would have only been a relatively short section of gravel path to negotiate between hard, lit footpath & cycle ways.
Countryside will prepare a detailed mark-up plan, including all key links between Channels and Beaulieu, which will show the status of each route (primary/secondary) and the timescales for delivery.
The City Council Planning representative will also be assisting us in liaising with Essex Highways with a view to bark being laid along the most muddy section of the bridleway to ease access from the footpath connection at the western end of Eagle Rise across to the deer structure at Beaulieu.
We have spent considerable time, engaged a number of key stakeholders and explored every possible avenue in an attempt to improve the current situation. However it would appear that due to the complex phasing of the Beaulieu build, some technical problems that have been encountered and a number of additional ecological considerations, residents will have to continue navigating dark and muddy paths for the next few months when heading to and from Beaulieu.
The good news is that by the Spring/early Summer of 2020, there will be a much improved network of both primary and secondary routes for walking/cycling which will facilitate safe & easy movement to, from and around Beaulieu without the need to jump in a car.
Lastly a key meeting between Ptarmigan Land, landscape architects and Marden Homes is due to take place later this week. Marden Homes is responsible for delivering and laying out the open spaces north of Channels Drive including the local park through which a footpath will be provided to the roadside services on Essex Regiment Way. Once this meeting has taken place, there will be greater clarity on timescales for delivery of this key path.