Town goes to war with brewery that called time on historic path

From left: Bernard Walford, Patrick Tunney and Linda Bould at the blocked-off footpath in Tadcaster.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
From left: Bernard Walford, Patrick Tunney and Linda Bould at the blocked-off footpath in Tadcaster. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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IT is a 270-yard grassy path, normally the scene of nothing more contentious than a couple of mischievous children being ticked off by a dog walker as they make their way to school.

But that was until Yorkshire’s oldest brewery moved in.

Last week, Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery blocked off the path, which has been used by generations of Tadcaster residents as a walking route from the Grade II listed Tadcaster viaduct and linking to nearby Riverside School, erecting a 2m high wood fence at one end and building a stone wall at the other.

It had been expected that the route was to 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, as recently as last month.

But the brewery has now reportedly bought up the land, and said it intends to use it to restore the nearby Fircroft estate – which was constructed in 1894 as a home for John Henry Ingleby, the owner of Ingleby Mills – to its original parkland setting, with the route blocked off permanently.

Now an unlikely group of residents in a sleepy corner of the North Yorkshire town have risen up and vowed to fight the brewery all the way to get their path back.

Patrick Tunney, a retired human resources manager who moved to Tadcaster 18 years ago and is a regular user of the route, said an action group had formed within 24 hours of the brewery closing it off.

“Everybody here is just an ordinary resident who wants to live in the community, share its facilities and have a quiet life,” he said.

“There are people who have joined the group who normally wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

“But at the same time, we are all now determined with this and are not going to give up the fight.”

Mr Tunney says members of the action group met with the brewery last week to ask it to reconsider its stance on the site, which was a former Barnardo’s children’s home.

They say that following the meeting they were told that despite the wave of public protest, the path was to be blocked off permanently.

Now they are calling on residents to write to North Yorkshire County Council to urge them to secure a definitive map modification order guaranteeing the route as a public right of way.

“There isn’t any scope for further dialogue with the brewery,” he said.

“Their position is absolutely clear that they are not re-opening that route.

“We told them if that is the case then you leave us with no alternative.

“We have got people distributing leaflets to letterboxes all over the town and have written to our MP, Nigel Adams.

“We are prepared that it could take a long time.

“This is a route that generations of people in the town have taken.

“There are children at Riverside School whose parents would have taken that route to school as children themselves. Since we have lived in Tadcaster, we have been fairly isolated from the issues that have rumbled on between the brewery and the town,

“This has brought it right to our doorstep.”

A North Yorkshire County Council spokesman said: “We will consider any submissions on the subject when they are presented to us.”

Samuel Smith’s was unavailable for comment.