We have objected to a planning application from the Wardour School governors to move a public footpath (Tisbury footpath 83) which runs across a field adjacent to the school. The school wants to fence in the path with steel post-and-wire mesh.
The school has previously tried to move the path under the Highways Act 1980, but Wiltshire Council, the highway authority, would not support this in the face of much opposition. It appears that the school is now trying to move the path by using the planning laws although it would still need a formal order under the Highways Act 1980 or Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to achieve its aim.
We have opposed this because, although it is unclear what the application is for, we fear the outcome would be a path which has been both moved and enclosed. The proposed fencing is extremely ugly, more suitable for a prison than a rural footpath and walkers would feel hemmed in and would lose a lovely open walk with fine views. Moreover, this is in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where fencing of this nature would be in conflict with the purposes of the AONB.
The footpath is a pleasant alternative route to the nearby Wessex Ridgeway long-distance path which here runs along vehicular routes. Tisbury footpath 83 is popular, with local people and visitors, and is an important part of the network, providing a useful, off-road short-cut.
If the school feels under threat (and we have seen no evidence of this) it should introduce more discreet security arrangements such as CCTV. We are pleased at the number of objections already logged, including from the two parish councils affected, Tisbury and West Tisbury. We trust that Wiltshire Council will reject this confusing and damaging application.