Anger as alleyway right-of-way row has to go to public inquiry

Wednesday 13th January 2016 12:37 pm
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RESIDENTS barred from using a popular shortcut to Haslemere High Street will have to wait for a planning inspector to decide if the alleyway can be officially reopened as a public right of way.

Surrey County Council made a modification order in November for a new public right of way – footpath 604, from Lloyds Bank to College Hill – but it has gone to appeal because an objection was received from the owners, just before the December 30 deadline.

There was an outcry in February, when a six-feet high metal fence was erected blocking the entrance to the alleyway from College Hill.

Although the shortcut had been used for many years, it had not been registered as a public right of way – so its obstruction was not illegal.

The Haslemere Society made a formal application to the county council for a map modification order, supported by 64 sworn statements from users between 1968 to 2015 to show it had been in use for more than the requisite 20 years.

Users protested it was not only a long-established footpath but also a safer route to the High Street for pedestrians, because it avoided College Hill with its blind bend and inadequate pavements.

Half Moon Estate Residents’ Association members condemned the decision to appeal against the order:

Group chairman Áine Hall said: “It is now nearly a year since property developers, Peter Warner and Hamish Robbie, blocked off this much-valued footpath.

“It is no wonder members of the residents’ association are angry they have chosen to appeal. They are continuing to ignore the fact that the passageway has been used as a pedestrian right of way for decades.

“If the developers were acting with community spirit, they would not persist in ignoring serious safety issues and would have removed their railings by now.

“We are at a loss to understand why they continue with this ill-considered interference with the long-standing rights of the local community to use the footpath. We hope the appeal will be concluded promptly and the footpath will at last be re-opened.”

Chairman Jane Stopford said the Haslemere Society was “very disappointed” to learn of the “last-minute appeal. She said: “In spite of evidence of the existence of a footpath recorded as far back as the 18th century in Royston’s definitive history of Haslemere written in 1955, it has been arbitrarily fenced off by the owners of the land at the top of the path.

“As further evidence, a map from 1730 shows the footpath in place.

“The appeal now means further lengthy delays and uncertainties, for those who have enjoyed the safety of avoiding a busy road, with its inadequate footpaths, for the past decades.”

A Surrey County Council spokesman said: “The order and necessary paperwork will now be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for them to appoint an independent inspector to determine the matter.

“This will be done either by written representations or the holding of a public hearing or inquiry at a date yet to be set.”

Mr Warner declined to comment on the decision to go to appeal.

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