A new off-road track through Clennon Valley at Paignton alongside a nature reserve has been approved despite concerns about conflict between cyclists and other users.
The 3m-wide path will run from Haytor Avenue, near Roselands Primary School, down a hill and alongside playing fields bordering the Clennon Lakes nature reserve to Dartmouth Road near Torbay Velopark.
Objectors argued an alternative through Lancaster Drive would be cheaper and more accessible, avoiding the need for a landscaped zig-zag hillside section and a stretch through the middle of meadows used by dog walkers.
Concerns were also raised about the possibility of conflict between cyclists, other users and wildlife at Clennon Lakes.
But Torbay Council’s planning committee voted in favour of the proposed track after hearing the selected off-road route was designed to national standards and was shorter and not as steep as alternatives.
The zig-zag section will have solar-powered bat-friendly light, the tight curves are expected to slow downhill cyclists, and there will be barriers at the entrances to the nature reserve to avoid conflicts.
The scheme includes improvements to the entrance of the Velopark site, a new timber bird watching screen, benches and signs.
The committee approved an extra condition to ensure a safe access for cyclists onto Dartmouth Road.
Councillors were told the asphalt path would improve access for all to the nature reserve, as well as providing a link between the east and west of the town, from the beaches at Goodrington to South Devon College, homes and employment sites in the White Rock area.
Catherine Fritz, chairman of the Paignton Neighbourhood Forum, objected to the planned route and favoured an alternative on the edge of the meadows at the top, linking to Lancaster Drive.
She argued that would avoid problems with dog walkers in the fields and the alternative would be cheaper, relatively level and more suitable for buggies, wheelchairs, prams and pushchairs.
Mike Langman, chairman of the Friends of Clennon Lakes, objected to the route, saying it went through the protected area and it would be difficult to stop cyclists using footpaths in the reserve.
He said the hillside section was too steep for some users, could be dangerous due to frost and ice in the winter, and warned the downhill bends could be attractive to skateboarders.
Paignton councillor Lee Howgate said there had not been enough consultation.
He said the planned route was more costly and damaging to the environment than alternatives, and would interfere with enjoyment of the lakes.
“Cycling and wildfowl do not mix easily,” he said.
Landscape architect Paul Osborne supported the application, saying it would provide a safe off-road link, providing access for all to green spaces with proven health and community benefits.
Councillors were told the route had been designed in line with best practice in consultation with Sustrans, the sustainable travel charity.
Alternatives had been considered and there had been extensive public consultation over the proposals for a six-week period.
Cllr Nick Bye said: “This is a green link for walkers, cyclists, mums and dads with prams and buggies.”
He said the path would be ‘10 times safer’ than using roads.
The planning committee voted unanimously in favour of conditional approval.
A report with the application said: “The proposed new path will provide a strategic traffic free link for pedestrians and cyclists, connecting where people live with their jobs and leisure activities.
“The ecology led design will ensure important habitats are retained and enhanced, with new wildflower species rich grassland and areas of scrub proposed.
“Using best practice design guides, the proposed path will allow access for all users on a shared tarmac route which, although steep in places, offers a less steep gradient than nearby busy roads.”