Town council to unlock Barnstaple gate row

THE Ramblers Association has waded into a row over gates that have been erected across a popular Barnstaple passageway. North Devon volunteer footpath officer Joan Long has urged Barnstaple Town Council to ask Devon County Council to overturn a decision

THE Ramblers' Association has waded into a row over gates that have been erected across a popular Barnstaple passageway.

North Devon volunteer footpath officer Joan Long has urged Barnstaple Town Council to ask Devon County Council to overturn a decision not to acknowledge the lane at Prospect Place, Newport, as a public right of way.

Speaking at Monday night's town council meeting, Mrs Long said: "I have every sympathy for the residents at Prospect Place but there are two separate issues here and the issues of antisocial behaviour are not relevant to the county council's decision as to whether a right of way should exist.

"On behalf of all the people who have used the footpath without obstruction for many years, I am asking the town council to consider making a formal application to the county council to add the lane to a legal map of rights of way."


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But also speaking at the meeting, Prospect Place resident Tim Robinson said the gates had been erected by residents as a "last resort" after years of antisocial behaviour along the alley linking Newport Road and Park Lane.

He said: "Since the gates have gone up, they have instantly improved the lives of residents and we have been free from the troubles we lived with before."

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Fellow resident Ruth Maclaren-Stradling said residents put the gate up because "we were at the end of our tether".

"We are surprised at the attention our gate has caused and we did not intend to upset anyone," she told the Gazette. "We just absolutely have had enough of the antisocial behaviour including littering, graffiti, dog fouling, vandalism, theft and burglary. A fire was started beside a wooden garden gate and needles have been found among the weeds.

"The kind of alleyway that we have at the back of our homes attracts trouble because it is not overlooked; our homes are right on it, and it is badly lit at night. It could also be used as a handy escape route for anyone committing crime.

"At the end of the day, the Park Lane end of Prospect Place is private and it has never been a recorded public right of way and we are very pleased with the county council's recent decision."

Although unpopular with many local people - particularly pupils who regularly used the lane as a shortcut to and from Park School - the gates have received the backing of the police.

Police architectural liaison officer, John Knowles, told the Gazette: "Residents have had to put up with years of antisocial behaviour including broken windows, blocked gas flues, graffiti and stuff shoved through their letterboxes and are now having to endure criticism by large pockets of the community and in the local media."

And Mr Knowles said that should the county council rescind their decision and make the lane a right of way, police would look to close it again under Section 118B of the Highways Act.

"I am confident that with the evidence available, we could shut it down due to the extent in which residents' quality of life has been adversely affected as a result of antisocial behaviour," he said.

Barnstaple Town Council has resolved to refer the matter to the council's environment committee next month.

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