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Opinion divided over woodland retreat plan

FRESH plans have been submitted for a woodland retreat for the disabled at Slapton – the first of its kind in the country.
Paddy Costeloe, a lower back paraplegic, wants to set up six two-bedroom custom- designed cottages for people with physical disabilities and a central building to include owner’s accommodation and guest common areas at Lower Coltscombe.
But his proposal has brought almost 100 letters of objection from nearby residents who claim there are unsuitable access roads, environmental concerns, the buildings are not in keeping, loss of tranquility and unsuitable terrain for the disabled.
Slapton Parish Council is also recommending refusal of the application before South Hams Council.
Mr Costeloe, who lives at Loddiswell, says he has done much to address the issues and come up with alternatives to solve the problems.
‘More recently due to concerns raised by objectors and statutory agencies we have withdrawn the hydrotherapy and fitness centre and its car park from the application,’ he said.
The plan would create a retreat for holiday and respite care for people with varying degrees of physical disabilities, including those with sight and hearing impairments and their carers, families and friends.
It would also provide suitable temporary accommodation for the rehabilitation of injured people whether from the public sector or the Armed Forces.
A design and access statement submitted with the application said: ‘The tranquility and high scenic quality of the site an its surroundings are features which were specifically selected to provide a retreat setting to a large market for which there is clear demand.
‘Physical disability has been described as the largest untapped market in tourism. There is an absolute dearth of recognised accessible accommodation in the South Hams and the proposed development would be one of the first of its kind in the country.’
But one of the objectors, Michael Mann, believes having motorised wheelchairs using the roads was tantamount to playing Russian roulette.
‘My wife and I are regular visitors to our daughter’s house in Lower Coltscombe and always travel down Five Mile Lane,’ said Mr Mann, from Torquay.
‘The plans to put a new access road in for the complex along this busy piece of narrow single-track country lane is poorly thought through.
‘The lane is very busy and has numerous areas where it is difficult to gauge the presence of oncoming vehicles. We have to frequently stop and reverse long distances due to larger vehicles completely filling the road.
‘I dread to think what it would be like if wheelchairs were encountered unexpectedly in the middle of the road. How on earth can Mr Costeloe think that this is a good idea?
‘He suggests that motor­ised wheelchairs could drive from his development down to Slapton. I suggest this is tantamount to playing Russian roulette.
‘The village of Slapton is virtually impossible to park in these days, even with the benefit of a disabled badge, there just isn’t any space remaining.
‘The locals have had to put up with the threat of this development for long enough. It’s time for the council to deny the application and save our countryside and villages from over-development.’
Heather Cook, of Sands Road, Slapton, wrote in an email to the council: ‘I am objecting to this planning application for a number of reasons which have been put forward in detail by many people – overdevelopment in anAONB and its proximity to a nature reserve to put it simply.’
She added: ‘I have direct access from the house into Sands Road and am very aware of the volume of traffic passing through – there are no pavements and no protection for pedestrians.’
Devon county highways says it is likely to recommend refusal of the application.
But around 40 letters of support have been received by the district council’s development management department.
Among them, Philippa Stainton, of Aveton Gifford, who described the proposal as ‘a delight and breath of fresh air’.
Claire Wotton, of Mod­bury, said: ‘For those that live with disabilities, and their families, everyday life has many physical barriers and it can be almost impossible or very challenging for these families to access leisure and holiday facilities.
‘This unique project opens the door to the beautiful South Hams and allows these families a break away from the norm and the opportunity to stay in purpose built accommodation with specialist supporting facilities.’
Paul Brizio, of Stentiford Hill, Kingsbridge, said: ‘As an ex-serviceman with friends with service disabilities, I believe this is a fantastic idea, a place to heal, relax, and what a better place to do this but in south Devon?’

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