Campaigners’ hopes rise in long running battle over footpath

Members of the action group at the blocked off footpath in Tadcaster.
Members of the action group at the blocked off footpath in Tadcaster.
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A wrangle about a footpath which has seen local people take on a brewery in a long-running battle to get it reopened is set to be decided at a public inquiry which is due to get underway tomorrow.

The 270-yard grassy path in Tadcaster, usually the scene of nothing more contentious than dog walking and children making their way to school, was blocked off almost three years ago. But since then locals have waged a battle to prove it has been in continuous use for a number of years and should be classed as a public footpath.

The path, which has been used by generations of Tadcaster residents as a walking route from the Grade II listed Tadcaster viaduct and Wighill Lane and linking to nearby Riverside School, was blocked off in 2012.

It had previously been hoped it would be converted into a new footpath and cycleway, with North Yorkshire County Council commissioning a heritage report at the cost of several thousands of pounds just prior to the closure.

In April 2013, members of North Yorkshire County Council’s planning and regularity functions sub-committee backed an application for it to be reopened as a public footpath.

Locals argue that the route is a “useful artery” for the town and say it offers access to the local school.

Members of the action group met with Samuel Smith’s to ask it to reconsider its stance on the site, which was a former Barnardo’s children’s home, after it was sealed off. But they said that following the meeting they were told it was to be sealed off permanently.

In a statement campaigners fighting for the reopening of the route said: “The evidence shows that the path has been used extensively over many years by the public.

“It is considered as a highly valued amenity by the members of the public to gain access from one side of the town to the other who have used it to accompany children to and from school, visit family, friends and to take advantage of other facilities in the town.”

A public inquiry on its future use is due to be held from tomorrow until February 18 in Tadcaster. Campaigners hope they will be able to persuade the inquiry the footpath has been in use for a number of years.

They say they have evidence to show that the route has been used as a footpath for over twenty years and therefore should be listed as a public footpath.

Samuel Smith’s was unavailable for comment today.

At the meeting in April 2013, however, it was claimed people had broken down fencing that had been put in place along the route by previous owners.

Neil Jacobi, of Peter Lyn and Partners Solicitors, representing the landowners, Wharfe Bank and Samuel Smith’s, spoke against the order at the April 2013 meeting of the county council’s planning and regularity functions sub-committee.

Minutes from the meeting say he argued: “...the existing fences had been broken down by people continuing to use the route and considered that over the last 20 years people had to either break down or climb over the fences to obtain use of the route.

“He considered, therefore, that the route had not been used for the 20 year period without force or permission having to be given,” the minutes add.