Council and residents fight footpath 39 plan through Manton back gardens
Unless a compromise route can be reached, then a proposal by Wiltshire Council to create a controversial footpath through the gardens of properties in Manton High Street should be decided by a planning inquiry.
This was Marlborough town council’s stance when asked on Monday for its views on the scheme outlined by Barbara Burke, the council’s senior Rights of Way officer, for the route of foothpath 39 before it reaches the grounds of Manton Mill.
Councillors declared that a scheme that did not put the gardens of up to a dozen properties in the High Street “into jeopardy” was essential.
They hoped that a compromise could be reached that was not disruptive and that “goodwill and commonsense should prevail”.
“There is an element of bureaucracy here,” said Councillor Nick Fogg, who is also a member of Wiltshire Council. “We need to find a solution, but there is a problem of procedure. I favour a compromise solution that does not impinge on residents’ gardens.”
Councillor Peggy Dow, also a member of the Wiltshire authority, said: “Can we pleasure ensure that this issue goes to a planning inspector to decide.”
But the property owners, four of whom living nearby have not been consulted, claim that a map of 1792 shows the ancient footpath on a bank outside of their garden boundaries.
They point out that that neither the old Kennet District Council nor the new Wiltshire unity authority revealed the ancient footpath on solicitors’ searches made when they originally bought their homes.
But in letters to them Barbara Burke insists: “I am aware that members of the public have been walking a route through the field but this is not the legal line of the path as shown on the definitive map. It is precisely this anomaly that is making the council seek a workable solution.
“Issues regarding the route of this right of way and other routes the public have used within the field have arisen several times over a number of years and it is for that reason that the council is seeking to establish a route which is convenient for users and landowners affected by it.”
One resident whose family has lived for 60 years on the site refutes the claim and declares that there is no evidence at all to show that the original footpath went through back gardens. Another points out that the Land Registry map received when the property was bought showed no existing footpath through the garden.
Solicitors who made searches for house purchasers were also not told of the existence of any such footpath. And a third resident has already complained to local Tory MP Claire Perry about the footpath proposal.
The greenfield site through which a footpath runs to the banks of the River Kennet was sold in 2007 to Tim Clarke, the owner of Manton Mill, by Marlborough Tory town councillor Stewart Dobson, who declared an “historical interest” when the proposed footpath was discussed.
Residents fear the field is being divested of its original footpath so that unwanted development can take place.
They are contemplating collective opposition by forming an action group to fight the loss of garden land and are also considering making a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.