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After nearly 20 years of obstruction, the riverside path at Purfleet, which leads to Grays, has re-opened following action by keen Thames-side walker and Open Spaces Society member Chris Smith. Chris was pleased to have the support of the OSS and the Ramblers.
The path was obstructed in the 1990s near Purfleet Station by a 2 metre high metal fence which barred entry to the path. Thurrock council did nothing about this. Later, the council became owner of the land, but it still did nothing to open up the path.
In the meantime local people, keen to use the path, broke open gaps elsewhere in the fence, but the right of way was still obstructed and those not “in the know” could not use the route.
In 2013 Chris complained to the council and tried various forms of legal action to get the path re-opened. But it was only when he complained to the Local Government Ombudsman that the council finally agreed to remove the obstruction and signpost the route.
In September 2014 the council erected a gate in the fence on the right of way – but it also posted two new signs telling walkers not to use the path. Following further contact from Chris the council has now taken the signs down.
Chris says “ I was shocked that Thurrock council has neglected its duty for so long. I am told that the council has spent over £5 million promoting walking and other sustainable forms of transport. So there can be no excuse.
The path is not conventionally “pretty” but it can claim to be one of the most dramatic in the London region. There are fine riverside views, a spectacular view of the Queen Elizabeth bridge, an extensive high quality aerosol art display and the opportunity to visit St Clement’s church, set in the heart of industry, where scenes from Four Weddings and a Funeral were filmed.
I hope the council will now publicise the path so that walkers will come to enjoy it and spend their money in the local economy. They could link to the area’s under-publicised Dracula heritage. Purfleet is certainly worth a visit”
But this is by no means the end of the story. The Thurrock group of the Ramblers Association has started a survey of paths in the borough. So far they have surveyed 47 paths. They have found that the majority of them are blocked off or otherwise unusable. Plainly the council has a lot to answer for and a lot of work to do.