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We are delighted to have saved Brickhill footpath 9 from closure, following a public hearing in November. We were represented by our local correspondent and veteran path-defender, Mike Clarke.
The 240-metre-long path runs between Waveney Avenue in the north to Falcon Avenue in the south, across Waveney Green, Brickhill, on the north side of Bedford. The green is owned by Bedford Borough Council (which proposed the path extinguishment), and leased to Brickhill Parish Council.
In order to close the path, under section 118 of the Highways Act 1980, the borough council had to prove that it was not needed for public use. It made a legal order to extinguish the path, the Open Spaces Society objected and a local resident objected, and so the matter was referred to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to take a decision on behalf the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. PINS appointed inspector Claire Tregembo to determine the matter, and a public hearing was held on 8 November.
The southern end of the path is obstructed by 29 Falcon Avenue, which has been in place since at least 1968, and some tree planting. When the area was developed, a public open space, Waveney Green, was provided, with a tarmac path across it running roughly parallel with footpath 9. Part of the footpath coincides with the tarmac path.
The council argued that the path was not needed for public use because of the existence of the tarmac path more or less on the same route. Mike Clarke responded that the tarmac path had never been adopted as a public highway and therefore was not a legally-protected route. Footpath 9 provides a direct route across Waveney Green. If such a route was not needed, the council would not have provided the tarmac path running in the same direction.
He pointed out that, since part of footpath 9 was blocked. the simplest solution was for the council to make an order for a short diversion around 29 Falcon Avenue.
The inspector agreed with the Open Spaces Society, concluding that the path across Waveney Green was needed for public use, otherwise the council would never have provided the tarmac path. Where footpath 9 overlaps with the tarmac path is it well used, so, she said, if she confirmed the order, she would effectively be extinguishing part of a path which is used by the public. Although it would physically still be available, legally it would not exist.
Says Mike Clarke: ‘We are pleased that the inspector agreed with us that footpath no 9 was needed for public use and refused to close it. We shall press Bedford Borough Council to make the footpath fully available once more.’
Adds Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘We are delighted that Mike fought this campaign on our behalf and has saved this important footpath for public use and enjoyment. We are fortunate to have local correspondents throughout England and Wales who act as our eyes and ears in defence of paths and open spaces.’
The decision can be downloaded here.