THE COMPANY behind plans to build an ‘adrenalin-filled’ attraction in the Tavistock Woodlands say that it will support local tourism as well as protecting the economic future of the woods.

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 felling some 30 trees and erecting steel supports for the ride, as well as a 95-space car park. 

Plans for a much bigger toboggan ride were withdrawn by Zip World in 2022: locals had commented that the ride would be ‘more at home in a theme park than in an area of outstanding natural beauty and heritage site’.

The current scheme would cover an area of around a third of that originally proposed. 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, with concerns including the increase in traffic on the narrow roads and noise from the course itself. 

Calstock Parish Council has submitted a recommendation of objection to the project, although Gulworthy Parish Council decided at its meeting on Monday to back the plans, albeit with some concerns.

The plans have also been scrutinized and criticised by 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.

Maternity roosts such as the one found within 100 metres of the proposed works are vital to the continued survival of the bat population, says the trust: several other day and night time roosts are also situated close by.

Zip World has come under fire for what the trust describes as inadequate surveys of the local bat activity and habitat. 

Meanwhile, the local flood authority has stated its objection and criticised 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 borough council’s 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.

The council said: “Should the proposal go ahead there will undoubtedly be additional vehicles travelling through Gunnislake which has an air quality management plan. “Noise will be very prevalent for residents in our parish and the site’s neighbouring properties. “We also have concerns about the impact on wildlife and conservation, notably bats. “We heard from five members of the public and their concerns were about the viability of the project, the actual benefit to business and employment, traffic generation, a possible loss of tourism due to the peace and tranquility of the area being compromised and potential contamination of the land, especially in terms of watercourses being affected.”

Gulworthy Parish Council, although opposing the original application, has agreed to back this latest incarnation, albeit stressing that there needed to be conditions within the planning application ‘to protect our precious woodland’.

Parish council chairman Cllr Kate Royston said: “Whilst the parish council has a number of concerns relating to the impact on the local ecology; tranquillity and enjoyment of the trails; impact on local residents; and concerns about traffic and access; it is also felt that the limited development will give a boost to our parish in terms of employment; and the Tamar Trails Centre and Café can be sustained and flourish; and through the planning process, should it be approved by WDBC, appropriate conditions and mitigations are agreed to safeguard our precious woodland.”

Zip World says that the woodland setting provides a natural sound-muffling effect, and it is ‘unlikely that the proposed development would have any significant additional effect on tranquility over any significant distance’.

A period of public consultation ended on Thursday, February 8. The plans can be viewed on West Devon Borough Council’s online planning page by using ref 4165/23/FUL.