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A valued public footpath at West Hoathly, near East Grinstead in West Sussex, has been saved from diversion following a public inquiry last April. Paul Brown and West Hoathly Parish Council, both members of the Open Spaces Society, appeared at the inquiry as objectors.
The public-inquiry inspector, Mr Michael Aldous of the Planning Inspectorate, refused to confirm the order which would have diverted the footpath around the perimeter of New Coombe Farm, increasing the length by almost half a kilometre.
The inspector agreed with the objectors that the diversion would be substantially less convenient, because of the increased distance and the fact that users would be obliged to go steeply up and downhill compared with the existing route. There were 36 written statements of objections and 16 people spoke against the proposed order, including Guiding UK, the neighbouring landowners.
Says Paul Brown: ‘This has been a long drawn-out business. West Sussex County Council staff agreed to recommend the diversion in 2007, without any public consultation, and then pushed the order through in 2009 despite petitions objecting to the diversion. I am disappointed that the inspector stopped short of criticising WSCC for pursuing something that was clearly not in the public interest. However, it is excellent that he has rejected the plan.’
The path is part of the Sussex Border Path network and is also well used by local residents and young people staying at the Guiding UK’s Blackland Farm camp site near East Grinstead.