Heartbreak for farming couple after new road route is approved

Emma Woollacott
Mr and Mrs Sparks
Mr and Mrs Sparks

A farming couple from Devon broke down in tears after hearing that the A30 is to be re-routed through their land.

The controversial changes to the road will see it take a new path through the Blackdown Hills and Otter Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The speed limit is also being raised.

And it passes through the farm of Owen Sparks, 73, and his wife Sue, 61, who have described the news as 'devastating'.

"The orange route that has been preferred cuts my farm in half," Mr Sparks tells the Exeter Express and Echo.

"It will destroy my business, and my sons' and grandsons' when they inherit my farm."

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Devon County Council says the new route is the option with the lowest environmental damage and claims that it will deliver a £41.6 billion boost to the economy.

Compensation will be paid to those affected, it says.

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However, earlier this week, local MP Neil Parish withdrew his support. Speaking to BBC Radio Devon, he said: "We will have to go back to the drawing board on routes and how they affect Blackdown Hills. We may well have to have a less ambitious road which doesn't cut into the hillside as much."

Mr Sparks' parents bought the farm 60 years ago, and he says he always dreamed of passing it on to his two sons. But the new road would wipe out 13 of his 66 acres, and make a further 16 inaccessible.

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The last time that the A30 was upgraded, in the 1990s, it led to major protests. Most famously, 'Swampy' and others locked themselves in a series of tunnels for a week before being removed.

Residents have the right to object to any plans that might affect their property, but ultimately the government has the final say.

Earlier this year, an Essex couple were told their house might be demolished for a new road - just two weeks after moving in; they say they don't expect their objections to succeed.

And as many as half a million people are still waiting to hear how plans for the new high speed rail link, HS2, will affect their homes. We recently reported, for example, on a historic farmhouse rebuilt stone-by-stone by a couple who have now learned it may have to be demolished.