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Luton Borough Council plans to erect locked gates across the popular Beech Hill footpath. The path provides a direct and useful link between Dunstable Road and Ash Road, and to Beech Hill Community Primary School.
In 2008 the council abandoned its plan to close the route, which was illegally blocked and, with the Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association, we persuaded the council to reopen the route.
Now the council wants to erect alleygates across the path, claiming that it is encouraging crime.
Before making a gating order, the council must be satisfied that premises adjoining or adjacent to the highway are affected by crime and anti-social behaviour and that the presence of the highway is assisting these.
Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘We do not consider that the council has sufficient evidence that there is a problem here, nor that the presence of the Beech Hill footpath is the cause of any crime or anti-social behaviour which does occur.
‘It is obvious that the council does not like having to keep this path open. The council allowed it to become neglected and blocked and tried to close it permanently. Only after we and the Bedfordshire Rights of Way Association put pressure on the council did it carry out its legal duty and reopen the path.
‘Now it wants to gate the path off so that no one can use it. Yet it is a valuable, traffic-free short cut. Nearly three-quarters of the people questioned in a recent survey said they would have some or a lot of inconvenience if the footpath were to be closed. They would instead have to go round three sides of a rectangle, via Ash Road and Hampton Road.
‘Luton Council should recognise that it has a legal duty, as highway authority, to protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the town’s paths. It should keep Beech Hill path open, not gate it off,’ Kate concludes.