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We have won a new town green and public footpath for the town of Witney in Oxfordshire.
These are on land which is being developed by Richmond Care Villages (RCV) between Thorney Leys and Curbridge Road.
RCV went ahead with their development, illegally obstructing Witney footpath 40 which they belatedly applied to move. The path is important because it is a traffic-free direct route to and from open countryside south of Witney.
Our local correspondent, Chris Hall, objected to the revised route of the path because it was longer and less pleasant for users; it passes through a housing estate instead of over a green field. The objection would normally have gone to a public inquiry and delayed the development by several months.
Chris offered to withdraw the society’s objection provided RCV dedicated land on the site as a town green, thus ensuring that the public can use it for informal recreation and that it is protected against development for ever.
The society also insisted that the public should be invited to visit the development to see the old and new paths and the position of the new green before the changes are made legal. RCV then offered an additional new path across the estate linking to a pedestrian-controlled crossing of Thorney Leys.
RCV accepted this package and will also offer in due course a public apology for having illegally obstructed the path. At the society’s urging, RCV opened the site for two weekends in November to enable people to view the proposals.
Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘While we deplored RCV’s illegal obstruction of the public footpath, we are pleased to have found a solution which will benefit the people of Witney. They will have a new path across the site, made easily accessible by a pedestrian-controlled crossing of Thorney Leys and a wheelchair-accessible kissing gate, and an attractive green space for quiet recreation.
‘This is our message to developers. Do not ignore the existence of public paths on your sites, nor think you can get away with illegally obstructing them. If you don’t sort out the paths before proceeding with your development you can be delayed by months or even years—as RCV have discovered.’
The green and the path will be open for use in spring 2017.