LETTER: Real hardship of path closure

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I would like to respond to Mark Haydon’s comment in the County Times article - ‘Neighbourhood at war... over a footpath that has been fenced off’ - in which he states ‘the neighbourhood was a high crime area where there had been a number of break-ins - which had stopped since the path had been fenced off’.

The neighbourhood is actually a low crime area. The latest official crime statistics for the area rank us 4 out of 12 for crime where 12 IS THE WORST.

In the seven months from January 2016 when the path was blocked until July 2016 (the latest month for which figures are known) there have been nine burglaries within a quarter mile radius of RH12 4EW. In the seven months prior to January 2016 there were five burglaries. The blockage has coincided with an INCREASE in burglaries of nearly 30 per cent.

If our neighbourhood was indeed a high crime area why would one of the blockers have extended their property? They clearly feel comfortable in the area otherwise they would have moved.

Mark also states that the path was never a right of way and is private property.

The end of Coney Croft over which the path runs is not part of the public highway. It was left over from when the developer completed the last houses. The developer has long since gone.

The land is unregistered and not owned by any of the persons who blocked the right of way. They only have an easement over it to access their garages.

The path has been in existence and use prior to any of the houses in Coney Croft being built. It has been in constant use for over 40 years. One of our neighbours in Bostock Avenue remembers using it 60 years ago as a child.

Even if the land were to be private and the owner still alive and trading it is possible under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to establish the path as an official right of way by submitting evidence of constant use over the preceding 20 years. This we have done.

In fact of all the conributors who submitted evidence supporting our claim the vast majority have lived here for over 20 years. By contrast those who blocked the path are relative newcomers most having moved into Coney Croft during the last five years.

Everyone who lives in Coney Croft knew that path existed before moving here. For some of us it was a positive thing. I don’t understand why, if you don’t like a feature of the locality, you would move here. It’s like moving next to an airport and then trying to shut it down because it’s too noisy.

We really are perplexed as to what their true motives are for blocking this path. It is obviously not because of the crime rate as evidenced by the official figures. It does however present a real hardship for those who are elderly and infirm and who have been using the path for so long. Having it blocked without any consultation or notice is disgraceful.

We all thought it a temporary thing while a household completed their building work and we were sympathetic to that. It was only when I queried it was I told that it was to be a permanent feature and we should just walk further.

It’s easy to say when you are young and fit. Not so easy to do if you are 85 and arthritic or if you suffer from cancer and can only walk a few hundred yards.

Unfortunately, it looks like we will just have to grin and bear it for now. I hope those responsible can appreciate that every day the path is blocked causes real pain and inconvenience to their neighbours.

We look forward to examining their true reasons for unfairly inflicting this on us at the inevitable public inquiry.

David Pilbeam

Coney Croft, Horsham

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