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We are delighted that a plan to close a footpath in Maulden, Central Bedfordshire has been rejected by an independent inspector following a public inquiry last month. Central Bedfordshire Council made an order to close Maulden footpath 28 which runs past the property Ein-Ty in Clophill Road. Because there were objections, from the Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association and East Herts Footpath Society among others, the matter was referred to the Planning Inspectorate.
The 153-metre path, which runs from Clophill Road north to join bridleway 24 leading to Clophill Woods, has a controversial history. The owner of Ein-Ty, Mr Bowers, has repeatedly tried to get the route removed. Mid Bedfordshire District Council made two orders, in 1995 and 2000, to close it; these were hotly opposed and the orders were rejected. Mr Bowers tried to get Bedfordshire County Council to close the path but the route was blocked and the council instead took him to the magistrates’ court in 2009 for illegally obstructing the highway. He was found guilty and subsequently reopened the path.
Then, in 2013, Mr Bowers persuaded Central Bedfordshire Council to make a further closure order which has now been rejected. The council is still considering whether to pursue a further action to close the path in the magistrates’ court.
The public inquiry inspector, Mr Martin Elliott, had to be satisfied that the path was needed for public use. He ruled that ‘although the use is not substantial it is not insignificant’, that the route ‘provides direct access to Maulden Woods and the wider rights-of-way network’ and that although bridleway 24 provides an alternative route, it had certain disbenefits, such as shared use with horse-riders and cyclists with limited passing places.
Says Brian Cowling, our local correspondent: ‘We are delighted with the inspector’s decision, which reinforces the previous decisions to keep this path open.
‘We are dismayed that already thousands of pounds of public money and countless hours of council time have been spent on this short but significant path, and that the council still intends to proceed with yet another plan to close it, this time in the magistrates’ court.
This would be a further waste of public money, particularly when the council is so short-staffed and strapped for cash. We urge the council to abandon its plan to close this popular route and instead to accept that it should remain a public footpath, open for all to enjoy.’