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We have saved a 250-metre public footpath at Oddington from closure. Oddington is two miles east of Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire.
The owner of Brans Cottage which adjoins the path applied to the highway authority, Gloucestershire County Council, to close the path. We were the sole objector. The extinguishment order was referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (The decision letter is here.)
The landowner and the council claimed that access to the path at one end was on a busy road, the A436, and at the other it crossed a garden and patio close to the kitchen windows of Brans Cottage, and as a result the path was little used. They claimed that it was therefore no longer needed by the public.
We responded that past complaints from the public, and evidence of periodic surface maintenance, showed that the path had been used to some degree in the past. The patio and landscaping which incorporated the path had only been introduced fairly recently.
The society argued that a slight diversion away from the house was a preferable option to closing the path completely, but this was rejected by the council and the householder.
The inspector, Heidi Cruickshank, accepted that because the path passed through the landscaped garden close to the house it had a deterrent effect on public use. She considered that closing the route was contrary to many aspects of the council’s own Rights of Way Improvement Plan. The path enabled people living in properties along the A436 to have safe access to village amenities such as the village hall and pub. Otherwise they had to walk along the A436 which was a potential danger; this did not meet the council’s aim of promoting alternatives to car use.
She said ‘The route provides a short, off-road access to the village centre, with an existing verge alongside the A436, and I consider that it forms part of the wider functional highway network for village residents’. She therefore refused to confirm the extinguishment order.
Says our local correspondent Gerry Stewart, who fought the closure on behalf of the society: ‘I am pleased that the inspector agreed with my objection to the closure of this footpath and that it will be retained for future public use.
‘I was disappointed that neither the parish council nor other user groups objected, but thanks to the Open Spaces Society this valuable path has been saved.’