Barriers at the Coppice aim to make area safer but resident says it makes the situation worse

Barriers erected by South Hams District Council are intended to increase the safety of young people riding their bikes and others walking in the area, but one resident says they have made the situation worse. 

The barriers that have been installed in The Coppice - credit Helen Jones

Elle Vuitton, founder and treasurer of the Filham Bike and Skate Park Committee, is a resident of the Pippins, one of the roads that encloses the Coppice. She said that while she enjoys the fact that young people use the area to ride their bikes, she is "terrified" that someone will get into a car accident due to the bikes "shooting out" of the paths from The Coppice on to the Pippins and Cameron Drive. 

"They're really nice, polite, lovely kids", Elle said, "they're having a whale of a time on their bikes, whizzing along the paths, but when they get to the end of a path, they shoot across the pavement and on to the road. 

They're really nice, polite, lovely kids, they're having a whale of a time on their bikes, whizzing along the paths, but when they get to the end of a path, they shoot across the pavement and on to the road

"Since lockdown, the number of deliveries to people's houses down the streets has increased enormously with people ordering online, sometimes there are 10 or 12 delivery vans a day, and they're supposed to be doing 10mph but they could be doing 30mph."

Elle explained that the population of young people had increased and there isn't much for them to do, especially when they fall into that awkward middle age where they're too young to be going too far by themselves but too old to be going everywhere with their parents.

She said: "A few years ago new families came into the town and so there have been more children. There isn't much for them to do, especially about nine- to 11-years-old. They're too old for the swings and the skate park is pathetic, its just a couple of ramps in the middle of a car park. 

"There is the youth club run by the church, but at that age kids want to be able to have some independance without being controlled by adults. Plus we want them to be healthy and play outside, don't we? The Coppice is mainly used by adults as a cut through anyway."

we want them to be healthy and play outside, don't we?

Stock photo of a boy on a mountain bike - not Ivybridge

Elle said that talking to the council was "not about stopping them playing, we want to stop them getting hurt". She said that she and other local residents were asking the council for barriers at the end of the paths - descibed as "kissing gates without the gates" to just make them stop and manoeuvre around them, preventing them from popping out dangerously into traffic. 

She said that when she spoke to SHDC, they said the paths belonged to Devon County Council and therefore they would be responsible for installing those kind of barriers on the paths. 

not about stopping them playing, we want to stop them getting hurt

Last week, council vans arrived to install barriers, but instead of bike barriers at the end of the entrance and exits, low single rail barriers were put up around the areas where the youngsters ride their bikes. 

Elle said: "The barriers have made it worse. They've blocked off the safe bit and just left the tarmac paths."

The barriers that have been installed at The Coppice - credit Helen Jones

The barriers have made it worse...they've blocked off the safe bit and just left the tarmac paths

South Hams District Council, however, say that the barriers have been installed to "protect pedestrians walking on the footpaths, not to stop children playing in the Coppice".

South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Cllr Keith Baldry, said: “The barriers at the Coppice in Ivybridge, were erected to protect pedestrians walking on the footpaths, not to stop children playing in the Coppice. We know that the children who play there are using the footpaths to gather speed for their jumps and there is a very real fear that a child on a bike could accidently knock over and seriously hurt a vulnerable pedestrian who is walking on the footpath. 

The barriers at the Coppice...were erected to protect pedestrians walking on the footpaths, not to stop children playing in the Coppice

"This is why we have added low-level fencing at the more vulnerable pinch points, where the trails meet with the pedestrian areas.

“We also need to try to avoid any possible damage being caused to the woodland by digging and carefully manage to avoid any long-lasting damage to the environment..

“We know that the children need to have an appropriate place to meet and play, so we are currently working with the Town Council on looking at options for long term skating and biking provision in Ivybridge with a view to improving facilities for young people in the town. We will of course welcome the involvement of the community and young people in discussing requirements for any future facility.

we are currently working with the Town Council on looking at options for long term skating and biking provision in Ivybridge with a view to improving facilities for young people in the town

“I would like to stress that we do encourage children to play and enjoy their local environment wherever possible, but we also have a duty of care to ensure that pedestrians using connecting footpaths are safe."

A spokesperson for Devon County Council, who own the paths, said: “There are thousands of footpaths and cycleways across Devon that connect to our road network. Their junctions are categorised depending on the speed and amount of traffic. Barriers are usually considered where paths join busy, fast moving roads.

“The path that link The Coppice to The Pippins and Cameron Drive has been assessed as low risk because it connects cul-de sac turnings which are naturally slow and fairly quiet as they are only regularly used by people who live in the area.”

The path that link The Coppice to The Pippins and Cameron Drive has been assessed as low risk because it connects cul-de sac turnings which are naturally slow and fairly quiet 

Elle, as part of the Filham Bike and Skate Park Committee say they have been trying to create a space for children to use for their bikes and skateboards for around a year. 

She said: "There used to be a proper park that a couple of local dads built with soil ramps. The kids loved it but Ivybridge Town Council kept putting restrictions on it - there needed to be an adult there 24/7, the ramps were too high etc, eventually it became unsustainable and it was flattened. 

"I set up the new group about 12 months later to try and get some funding for a proper skate park and find the right piece of land." She said they have also been looking into the possibility of a 'pump track' (I had to Google it, and its a 'circuit of rollers, banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders "pumping"—generating momentum by up and down body movements, instead of pedaling or pushing' - see photo below).

 Leavenworth Pump Track in Chelan County, Washington - credit Thayne Tuason

Elle said that they think they have found a suitable area in Filham Park, but that it might be given over to allotments. "There is already three areas for allotments in Ivybridge", she said, "I think its greedy when they already have other locations. There are 4,500 [sic] kids at Ivybridge Community College, and with more housing developments being built, there are going to be even more in the town, especially as the school is so well regarded. 

"Some people complain about anti-social behaviour with the bikes, but where are they supposed to go?"

There are 4,500 kids at Ivybridge Community College, and with more housing developments being built, there are going to be even more in the town, especially as the school is so well regarded

Lesley Hughes, Town Clerk to Ivybridge Town Council, said: "There have been discussions about the Filham Park area in general because it is the Town Councils main parks area which provides a variety of sports uses, for which section 106 money has been allocated due to the new housing development and the District do this based on pitch based sports mainly.  This is not something within our control and we don’t hold the money. There is also money allocated for upgrading the access road to the park to make it safer so work is progressing to undertake that work as a priority.

"At the last Parks meeting (and some of our meetings had to cease at the outset of Covid until we were able legally to meet remotely) the councillors agreed to do a survey of the potential uses behind the cadet centre and former derelict BMX area to ascertain the community priorities.  

"As you might imagine during the pandemic and since then peoples priorities and needs have changed with even more wanting to have an allotment and use the parks socially.  We are legally required to provide allotments and the waiting list is growing so to also keep within our climate change commitments we are keen to work with the allotments association, and also the successful Ivybridge Bloomers group to ensure that both individuals and the town continue to benefit from the land. 

"Parks meetings are broadcast via YouTube and agenda/minutes are on the website so all that we are doing is in the public domain.

"Allied to that, work has been ongoing to ascertain where a skate/pumptrack would best be located and that will be part of the consultation.  We have also met with SHDC officers as they are moving the skate area out of the town centre and need to decide what that new facility should look like and where it should go.  

work has been ongoing to ascertain where a skate/pumptrack would best be located and that will be part of the consultation

"Naturally in this time of scarce public resources we have to ensure that we all work collaboratively and to best effect so that whatever each of our two authorities provide is complementary and offers activities for a broad age range. In addition, the parks committee want to ensure that we provide an area for a community workshop/possibly some indoor sports too but that will be part of the wider dialogue going on with local groups and the district now.

Naturally in this time of scarce public resources we have to ensure that we all work collaboratively and to best effect

"A challenging time in the midst of a pandemic as discussions have of necessity had to be focussed on the safety of the community first but meeting our legal obligations too."

A challenging time in the midst of a pandemic as discussions have of necessity had to be focussed on the safety of the community first but meeting our legal obligations too

When asked about cycling at Longtimber Woods, Ms Hughes said: "There should never have been cycling there. It is part of Dartmoor National Park area and we have checked with them and it is against their guidance and also our bylaws.

"The council is often in the position of not being able to please all the people all the time and ultimately we have to use our judgement and be guided by the rules. 

"I am pleased that the Council is pressing ahead with projects, and I hope that your contact will wish to respond positively to the efforts that the local Councils are doing."

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