Letters and Posters etc Received in Willersey
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The closure of this footpath at Farncombe has been cancelled i.e. it will remain open and please disregard any notices of closure in the local paper.
Gloucestershire CC received an application to temporarily close the Public Footpath through The Fish Hotel from the 19th June to 31st August whilst the setting up and running of an event takes place. Due to the event, it is necessary to close the footpath on public safety grounds and to maintain social distancing measures. As the event will take place across the line of the footpath, there would have been a need to close the on health and safety grounds even if there weren't the current social distancing measures in place.
This is the diversion route. Please see some comments on this and the closure below.
I am writing to you the Council to enquire about this closure and wanted to ask if you have walked the proposed alternative route yourselves?
The reason I am asking is that some parts are very steep and potentially slippery/dangerous and I know of one or two people who have had difficulty using this route. The normal path from Campden Lane to Broadway is fairly level with tarmac paths and grass fields that most walkers can manage with ease. The alternative route is through woods and on bare earth in places that can obviously be risky on the steep sections.
Some people who are expecting a gentle walk will be shocked to discover the ground they have to try and cover. The proposed alternative route follows the Fish Hill nature trail and Farncombe's own description the route states:
“Distance: 2 km/1.25miles Note: one stile and ups and downs of 103 metres or 338 feet. To complete this walk. Please wear stout shoes with a reasonable grip on the soles. After wet weather some areas can be slippery.”
The 2km figure is for the complete loop including the section that is to be closed so that the existing 400m section is being replaced with approximately 1.6km of much harder terrain. A proper risk assessment should be undertaken to fully identify the potential problems and other alternatives to this closure considered.
It seems the event at Farncombe Estate is some sort of filming and they have the right to close the path temporarily even if the community likes it or not. Not sure where we go from here other than to make sure it does actually re-open when it should. The replies are below, apologies its a long email:
1) The proposed diversion via the existing nature trail is completely unsuitable. The current path through the estate is via a paved road and large field which is easy to walk on in all weathers and allows easy social distancing when passing others. The nature trail is narrow and steep and will not accommodate the amount of pedestrian traffic that uses this route. The reason given for the closure is Covid Safety. There is no mention of the Health and Safety Issues you mention. Does the filming have Covid issues? As this is a temporary closure, there is no requirement for an alternative route. However, as we are aware, this is a well used path I made sure that there was an alternative route during the closure for people. The first part of the reason as stated in the notice is ĎThe closure is necessary to protect the public during the setting up and running of an event.í Therefore as the closure is for the setting up and running of a televised event and due to the nature of the equipment that a televised event brings, they have applied to temporarily close the path on Health and Safety grounds which is a legitimate reason to close a Public Right of Way.
2) I note your assurances about the future of the path but be sure that if you speak to people on the ground in Farncombe they are quite open about the fact that they don't like this footpath through the estate and use quite aggressive security at times to police it. This is very much at odds with the happy go lucky impression they try to create with their signage. I'm not sure the Estate are being completely open and honest about their future intentions for the path. The path is legally recorded on the definitive map and statement for pedestrians to walk along. In order to remove the path they would have to apply to extinguish the path from the Definitive Map and Statement and would have to prove that it is no longer needed for public use which is a legal process that involves consultation and objection periods. Therefore, as people have a legal right to walk the Public Footpath, please be assured that any future instances where they restrict the public to using the footpath, I will deal with it appropriately and make sure that people are able to use their legal right of walking this footpath.
3) I would like to see the details of this 2 month long "event" the estate are talking about. There's nothing on the website which states the site is closed until further notice. If they are planning opening the Hook restaurant the footpath will have to open to provide access.
As stated in the answer to question one, the event is a televised event which will be going on during the duration of the closure.
4) As the diversion takes the path around the perimeter of the estate it will be impossible to scrutinise what is happening on the closed path as it will be hidden from view. How will the Estate be held to account and how will you ensure the path is not diverted a moment longer than it needs to be?
As stated in our answer to question two, they are unable to divert/extinguish a footpath without going through the Public Path order process which is a legal process and involves consultation and objection periods. I will be keeping a close eye on this and making sure that the footpath is reopened as soon as practically possible. Furthermore, I will be inspecting the footpath once it is reopened to make sure that everything is in order.
5) On a personal note I often walk this path with my partner who is disabled. The flat firm surface allows her to walk safely on the path at the moment. There is no way she will be able to walk safely on the diverted path which severely limits her access to the countryside where we live. The estate have a network of paved roads they could easily use for a diversion but the truth is they don't like people walking on those either.
As stated in question one, there is no requirement for an alternative path. However due to the popularity of this path, I requested that an alternative route is provided which is the safest for people to navigate around the closure.
The Farncombe Estate management had erected a more long-standing permanent and seriously misleading, official, metal plate sign where the footpath entered its land. This stated Farncombe Estate. No public right of way in contravention of Section 57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which makes it an offence to display a notice that contains any false or misleading statement likely to deter the public from using a right of way; and Section 14 of the CROW Act 2000, under which it is an offence to display a sign which deters the public from exercising their right to use that access land.
These have been taken down, now you GCC have granted this Closure Order; what is the County Council going to do to prevent a repetition of the above offences?
The Estate's management has attempted to discourage the use of this right of way for years, more recently by its security staff threatening walkers intending to use the footpath with arrest, posting a sign indicating that the footpath was closed due to COVID 19 (at a time when there are no staff at all working at the buildings closest to the footpath) and then posting numerous illegal notices along this route (15 nailed to posts or screwed to trees over a distance of less than half a mile) in direct contravention of several pieces of legislation, including Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 which states that it is an offence to display on the surface of a public right of way or on any tree or structure within the public right of way any unauthorised sign or mark.
The Gloucestershire CC Emergency Contact Number 08000 514514 is now prioritised to deal with Highways Emergency Calls ONLY.
All other enquiries will need to be emailed to us at Highways@gloucestershire.gov.uk.