THE company behind plans to build an adrenalin-filled attraction in the Tavi Woods say that it will support local tourism as well as protecting the economic future of the woodland.
Zip World’s £2-million Tree Top Explorer proposal would see a series of four zip rail routes installed under the tree canopy, reached by a spiral staircase, with suspended walkways in-between.
The ride will deliver “the unique feeling of gliding through the trees,” says the applicant, “allowing riders to explore and experience Hangingcliff Wood and the World Heritage Site from a bird’s-eye view”.
The project involves the felling of some 30 trees and the erection of steel supports for the ride, as well as a 95-space car park.
Plans for a much bigger tobaggan ride were withdrawn by Zip World in 2022.
Zip World, which runs several adventure activity sites in Wales and two in England, says that it has taken on board feedback from planning officers and consultees. It says that on principle, the attraction is entirely reversible, with no permanent impact save for any marks left by the suspension wires on tree bark.
But the plans, while scaled back, have continued to face staunch opposition from residents on both sides of the Tamar. Local people’s concerns include the increase in traffic on the narrow roads, and the noise that might come from the adventure course.
Calstock Parish Council has submitted a recommendation of objection to the project: Gulworthy Parish Council were due to discuss the application at their meeting this week.
The plans have also been scrutinised – and criticised – by statutory bodies such as the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) and the local flood authority. DWT’s response to the plans focuses on the Greater Horseshoe Bat, a rare species which is declining in number in the UK.
Zip World has come under fire for what the trust describes as “inadequate” surveys of the local bat activity and habitat. The trust feels that the assessments of the potential impact on wildlife that have been provided cannot be relied upon because “there are too many unknowns in the assessment process”.
Meanwhile, the local flood authority has stated its objection and criticises the applicant for carrying out fewer tests than would be required to accord with policy, as well as for using rainfall data that is out of date.
The tree officer says that the plans describe well the opportunity to manage the woodland in a positive way, with the potential for regeneration of native species. But they say that the “significant absence of detailed information” on critical aspects of the construction of the site is of concern, and argue that there must be “full confidence that no harm will be done” before a decision is made.
At a recent meeting of Calstock Parish Council, some councillors said that they could see the benefits of the project to local tourism and business, but as a whole the Council decided to recommend objection to the proposal, on the grounds of noise, traffic generation and conservation.
Zip World says that the woodland setting provides a natural sound-baffling effect, and it is “unlikely that the proposed development would have any significant additional effect on tranquillity over any significant distance”.
A period of public consultation was set to end on Thursday, February 8.
The plans can be viewed on West Devon Borough Council’s online planning page by using ref 4165/23/FUL.