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The society and the Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Ramblers are delighted that they have helped to save a popular footpath which crosses the railway line just south of Griffin Lane, north-west Aylesbury.
Network Rail, backed by Bucks County Council, wanted to close the path on alleged safety grounds. They intended that people would instead walk a much longer route alongside the busy link-road between industrial estates and the A418.
Because the plan was opposed, it was determined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The inspector, Mrs Helen Slade, visited the site and issued her decision on 3 September.
Network Rail argued that there was misuse of the crossing by members of the public, resulting in ‘near-miss’ incidents. However, it confirmed that the crossing was currently safe.
Mrs Slade concluded that the path was popular and its closure would cause ‘significant inconvenience for substantial numbers of the public who use the crossing on a daily basis to get to work, to shops, to school and to other public facilities’. Network Rail was satisfied that the crossing was within current safety requirements, and the alternative route had problems with safety. She therefore refused to allow the closure.
We are delighted with this result. We had argued that the current route is well used, popular and valuable. It provides a direct path from close to town to and from Fairford Lees residential area, and linking with the North Bucks Way, the Midshires Way and the Thame Valley Walk. For local users it connects the superstore, industrial estate and park on one side of the railway and a school and large residential area on the other.
The proposed alternative was not an alternative at all. It was 15 times as long and would force people to walk on the pavement of a busy link-road between industrial estates and the A418. We considered that the closure of the crossing could result in greater risk to the public than retaining the path across the railway. The inspector agreed with us.