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Lancashire County Council plans to start building the new Waterfoot Primary School at Rawtenstall before the route of the public footpath which crosses the site has been determined.
The council applied to move Rawtenstall footpath 237 in order to enable it to build the new school. However, there were many objections, from ourselves and Rossendale Ramblers among others. The matter is to be determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with a hearing scheduled for 23 June.
Meanwhile, Lancashire County Council has announced that it intends to start construction of the school on 1 June, before the route of the path has been determined. It has made a temporary closure order for the path, from 7 June for six months.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘Lancashire County Council is so confident that its plan to move the path will be accepted that it is prepared to risk building the school before the line of the footpath has been resolved. It should not be so certain, there are many objections and the matter has yet to be decided by the Secretary of State for Environment.
‘If the environment secretary rejects the diversion order, the county council will have to change its plans, and it will have wasted a great deal of public money and possibly wrecked the path.
‘Lancashire County Council is also the highway authority, with a statutory duty, under section 130 of the Highways Act 1980, to assert and protect the public’s rights to use public paths, and to keep them clear of obstruction. By starting the development, it is severely jeopardising the long-term use and enjoyment of the path by the public, and therefore, in our view, it is not adhering to its statutory duty. It must surely be aware of the risk of going ahead with building while there is still a public highway across the site.
‘We have told Lancashire County Council that it should delay the building work until after the footpath matter has been resolved, and amend its plans if required to do so. This is an important and popular route, and it’s not surprising that there are objections to its being moved,’ Kate concludes.