Campaigners have won a battle to keep open a public bridleway across the grounds of a school near Horsham.
Officials at Christ’s Hospital School had sought permission from West Sussex County Council to divert the 935-metre route across a playing field at the school to a path around the edge.
But objections were put forward by local residents, Horsham District Council, Horsham District Cycling Forum and the conservation group, the Open Spaces Society.
Now, following a public inquiry, an Environment Department inspector has ruled that the path should not be diverted.
To approve a diversion order, proof has to be shown that diverting the path would protect pupils and staff from risks to their health and safety and that it would lead to a substantial improvement in security for the school.
But planning inspector Susan Doran, in a report out this week, agreed with the objectors and refused to confirm the diversion order. She said she did not consider it would result in a substantial security improvement.
A spokesman for the Open Spaces Society said after the hearing: “The evidence presented confirmed that the area has a low incidence of crime.
“Speaking at the inquiry, many residents who were path users confirmed the lack of incidents. Improvements to security have been implemented and more are planned, including an extension to CCTV systems.”
Society spokesman Paul Brown said: “While the Open Spaces Society recognises the need to secure some school premises by special diversion orders where public paths are close to the buildings or in a high crime area, and the necessary legal tests are met, we are pleased that this proposal to divert the bridleway has been rejected.”
He said that the alternative route would be disadvantageous especially for walkers and cyclists who “would have been constrained to a narrow, hedged way with restricted views.”