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A planning inspector has ruled that a footpath at Godstone, Surrey, will not be moved.
The footpath, Godstone 140B, runs from Harts Lane north-east to the A22 Eastbourne Road, close to Harts Lane Cottage. The owner of the cottage wished to divert the route so that instead it avoided the cottage and joined Harts Lane at a point 190 metres to the east of the existing junction.
Surrey County Council made the official order but there were objections so that the matter had to be referred to the Planning Inspectorate for determination. There was a hearing on 4 December and on 17 December the inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, issued her decision to reject the plan.
We objected, along with Godstone Parish Council, the Godstone Preservation Society and local landowner Mrs Margaret Duignan.
The inspector decided to reject the diversion largely because it would require walkers to use the narrow, dangerous Harts Lane, adversely affecting their enjoyment of the route. This was a point which was emphasised by the Open Spaces Society in its representations.
The inspector agreed with the objectors that most users of the path would be travelling in a north-east/south-west direction, linking to routes towards Tandridge and the North Downs. Therefore they would be likely to have to walk further on Harts Lane than is currently the case. Many walkers are heading for the Fox and Hounds pub on Tilburstow Hill Road and the existing footpath meets Harts Lane significantly closer to the pub.
We are pleased that the inspector agreed with us that the requirement to use a greater length of Harts Lane, on the diverted route, is a blight for walkers and would spoil their enjoyment. The lane is used by heavy vehicular traffic as a rat-run, with no pavement and hardly any verge. There are high hedges making it impossible for walkers to get off the road when faced with vehicles. They would be at risk.
As a result the proposed diversion did not meet the required legal tests. This is a great relief for local people and the many visitors who come to enjoy the beautiful Surrey Hills.
Mrs Duignan put up a robust objection. She instructed a specialist rights-of-way lawyer and a traffic consultant and produced survey results to show that, although the speed limit on Harts Lane is 40 mph, about 15 per cent of drivers exceed this. She also showed that the traffic flow along Harts Lane is significant — over 900 movements on a weekday in both directions, posing a severe risk to walkers. We congratulate her on this excellent research which helped to save the footpath.