Plea over disputed footpath is rejected

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The disputed footpath at Melkridge was damaged during Storm Desmond in December 2015.
The disputed footpath at Melkridge was damaged during Storm Desmond in December 2015.

A LANDOWNER’S proposal to re-route a footpath which has been at the centre of a bitter dispute in Melkridge has been rejected.

The 50-yard lonnen, on land owned by Melkridge Hall, provided access to the village from the A69 trunk road until four years ago, when gates were locked shut at either end by landowner, the Halbert family.

Following a public inquiry last summer, which ruled that the route be declared a public bridleway, the Halberts applied for the path to be diverted on to parish land.

But members of Northumberland County Council’s rights of way committee voted unanimously against the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday.

Addressing committee members, the council’s infrastructure roads manager David Brooks said any diversion would serve the interests of the landowner, but not the public.

He explained: “It would be unusual for the council to divert a path on to land which is not under the ownership of the applicant, and it would be unusual to agree to divert a highway where a landowner was obstructing a public passage.”

“The land on which the route would be diverted is village green anyway, so the public would not be gaining anything.

“In fact, it would be losing.”

Mr Brooks said the Halberts’ request for a judicial review of the decision to reinstate the route, following last year’s public inquiry, was also crucial to the committee’s decision.

He added: “Any decision to divert the route could be quashed following a judicial review.”

The original route was badly damaged during Storm Desmond in 2015, and Mr Brooks said this was one reason behind the landowner’s application for a diversion.

But he added that Highways England intends to carry out necessary maintenance work.

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