Over three miles out to the south of Belstone, up the Taw River, heading towards Steeperton Tor is Taw Marsh. The only access is up a rough track, on which vehicles are only allowed if they have permission from the Duchy of Cornwall.
Out there, you may come across some strange underground structures. These were put there by the North Devon Water Board back in the 1950s and 60s to extract water from Taw Marsh, for use in the rest of Devon. It was found that although the water was clear and drinkable, it had a high level of radon in it. Therefore an ‘aeration chamber’ was built which stored the water underground, with glass skylights to enable the sunlight to clear the radon before the water was pumped to the processing and distribution station at the top of the village.
The water extraction ceased in the 1990s, and the water board (which by then had become South West Water) now had an obsolete aeration chamber and pumping station in the middle of nowhere! They sold it off to private owners in 2014.
Recently the new owner tried to establish that there was an existing industrial or storage use for the property, by applying to the Dartmoor National Park Planning Authority for an ‘Existing Certificate of Use’. Belstone Parish Council had a special meeting to discuss the application at the end of June, which was attended by about ten interested villagers (see minutes here). The council submitted their comments that not only had it been abandoned for more than ten years, so the use would no longer stand; the original use of the structures was not industrial as it was neither noisy nor polluting, and it was originally set up by an act of parliament that would not result in further development rights.
You will be pleased to hear that Dartmoor National Park Authority have recently rejected the application. So, the site does not have industrial or commercial storage development rights. What will become of it we don’t know, but we will keep you informed.