Fears Darley Park three-metre wide path will be an eyesore

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

Council officers fear a proposed three-metre wide path through historic Darley Park could be an eyesore.

Conservation and heritage experts have also expressed concerns that the route could be “harmful” and have “an impact on the historic integrity” of Darley Park.

The path is meant to be for use by both pedestrians and cyclists, including disabled people on mobile scooters and buggy users.

And supporters of the plan say it will give people a chance to access the park who cannot do so at present.

This is the planned boardwalk to elevate the path away from the poorly-drained ground

The proposed path would follow a route from the road alongside the rowing clubs to the Deans Field car park in Darley Abbey village.

It would follow the river to the stone balustrade towards the centre of the park. It would then cross the footbridge, which is to be replaced, and then run to the east of a woodland and alongside the meadow, partly on an elevated timber boardwalk because of poor drainage in the area. Finally, it would cut through an existing play area, pass the cricket pitch before joining up with the existing path to the car park.

Derby City Council’s conservation team has said the visual impact of the width of the path is a problem, as well as the materials that would be used to build it.

A letter to the city council planning control committee outlines some of the worries and said: “The current proposal is harmful to the designated heritage assets and therefore to mitigate this I would suggest that the width is reduced and materials are reconsidered to reduce the visual impact of the path within the park, within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and upon the impact on the character and appearance of Darley Abbey Conservation Area and the Strutt’s Park Conservation Area.”

This the third time that an application for the path to be constructed has been made by the city council – the previous two in 2010, which were along different routes and narrower– were refused.

The council’s conservation team has also said that if the proposal is given the go-ahead careful thought needs to be given to future work which would “urbanise further the path” such as a white line to demarcate the centre and signs and lighting, which would make it even more “visually intrusive”.

There have been 26 objections to the plan, including one from Allestree resident and engineer Peter Steer, who said: “There are technical reasons why this path cannot be constructed and there are no viable options that make this possible.

“A pedestrian footpath could be an alternative and suggesting that the path becomes part of the Derwent Valley Cycle Way is not worthy of consideration because of the cycle access at the Darley Abbey end.”

Historic England has said it also “has concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds” and has issued advice, which includes making sure the design and detail of new works is of “exemplary quality” and suggests that a “slimmed down” scheme might better protect the heritage of the park.

Another objector, who did not wish to be named, added: “The plan is dangerous, ill thought-out and not needed.”

A total of 82 supporting comments for the footpath have been submitted, including from all three ward councillors Martin Repton, Jack Stanton and Lisa Eldret, the Derwent Valley Trust, Derby Cycling groups and Sustrans.

Mr Repton said: “I fully support these proposals as they sensitively address the real problem of many people not being able to use the park in winter or in wet weather at the present time.

The historic West Mill, in Darley Abbey

“It will enable many more people including those in wheel chairs or families with push chairs to really enjoy the beautiful surroundings and facilities within the park.”

Derek Latham, chairman of the Derwent Valley Trust, wrote in support of the scheme and said: “The route through Darley Park is designed for leisure cyclists, families and children, including tourists, and there is a much quicker route for commuter cyclists across Darley Fields, so this is not intended as a rapid cycling route, hence its meandering layout. There should be little conflict between all users therefore, including the walkers and the disabled.

“The Derwent Valley Cycleway is an important strategic element of promoting future access to the World Heritage Site. It is seen as a significant future tourist economic generator as witnessed along river valleys in Europe where such leisure routes through riverside parks a commonplace.

“For it to fall at this hurdle would be a major setback and not reflect well on Derby’s attempts to be recognised as a cycle-friendly city.”

The planning committee will discuss the application, which is recommended for approval, at its meeting in the Council House from 6pm on Thursday.

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