In September 2007 The Dartmoor Society wrote to Dartmoor National Park Authority to object to a proposal (Application 0452/07) by Airwave O2 to place a telecommunications (Tetra) mast beside the Church Way on the east flank of Hameldown above Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Widecombe parish council objected strongly to the plan.
Our objection focused on the historical significance of the Church Way which was the route by which the inhabitants of the ancient tenements of central Dartmoor travelled to and from Widecombe church. Although technically in the parish of Lydford, they petitioned the Bishop of Exeter in AD 1260 and were given a dispensation to attend Widecombe church instead (for all services including baptism, marriage and burial). So we can be confident that the route was well used at least since the mid-13th century.
A member of the DNPA drew particular attention to our evidence and this influenced the decision of the DNPA to refuse the application which it was deemed “would have an adverse visual impact on the character, appearance and cultural heritage of this part of Dartmoor National Park”.
Airwave appealed against refusal and in 2008 a public inquiry was held. At very short notice the appellants sent in 135 pages of new submissions. At this point, much to everyone’s surprise, DNPA, instead of requesting an adjournment, said they were withdrawing from the inquiry. The Inspector decided that an adjournment was appropriate and the second phase of the inquiry was held in January 2009. At the reopened inquiry the Inspector was ‘perplexed’ when DNPA announced that, after all, they were supporting their evidence. However, in the event, DNPA withdrew, leaving only members of the public to fight the cause.
On 12 January 2009 DS Chairman Tom Greeves wrote a supplementary letter, reinforcing the importance of the historic route, arguing that its status was comparable to the Lich Way or the Maltern Way, and giving examples of people from the Postbridge area who used the route for access to Widecombe church until at least the late 1920s. He argued that the “emplacement of any modern intrusion beside it, for which there is no overriding need, should be strongly resisted.”
We await the Inspector’s decision and report in due course.
(with thanks to Rod Newbolt-Young, Chairman of Widecombe-in-the-Moor Parish Council for providing background information)