Bid to end Henlow land access deadlock

A PLAN to resolve a “long-standing standoff” between a parish council and a landowner over site access, which has so far resulted in three public inquiries, appears to have failed.

Since 1996, the public rights of way on land at Poppy Hills Lakes, on the Henlow and Langford boundary, have been a bone of contention.

The current route of Langford Bridleway No.5 runs through the middle of the southernmost lake - owned by Letchworth Garden City Angling Association (LGCAA).

The former Mid Beds District Council and now Central Beds Council (CBC) have tried over the years to find a solution to the problem.

In 1996 and 2001, Henlow Parish Council objected to diverting the bridleway onto Haul Road, and two public inquiries agreed the diversion would deprive people of enjoying the lake’s environment.

In 1999 and 2003, LGCAA opposed plans to add a footpath through the lakes area and another along Haul Road. A public inquiry into the former was upheld. LGCAA withdrew its objection to the latter as part of an agreement with the former county council to move the bridleway out of the lakes area.

In 2010, moving the bridleway onto Haul Road was proposed again and the parish council again objected.

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Last week, CBC approved proposals which it said “seek to resolve a long-standing standoff between the parish council and the landowners, which has so far resulted in three public inquiries”.

This latest plan is to get rid of Langford Bridleway No.5 and create an alternative bridleway and new footpath.

This bridleway, created over existing public footpaths, will connect Common Road in Langford with Church Road in Henlow.

“It will be suitable for cyclists, helping to create a sustainable transport route between Henlow and Langford and Arlesey, as well as linking to new cycle routes within Henlow village,” said a CBC spokesman.

“This can be used as a safe cycle route from Langford to Henlow Middle School.”

The new footpath will run through LGCAA land, between the new bridleway on Haul Road and Henlow Millennium Field. It will pass along a causeway between the southernmost fishing lakes to a footbridge that will be built over the River Ivel.

“The new footpath will provide walkers with views of the lakes and will form the basis of several circular walks for residents from the villages of Langford and Henlow,” said the CBC spokesman.

The parish council’s chairman, Tim Wiles, said: “It’s the best compromise we have seen in 10 years. We are fully behind it.”

However, LGCAA has objected to the scheme, which could mean yet another public inquiry.

The LGCAA stopped most public access to the lakes area in the 1990s and is opposed to the plans on grounds which include the loss of fishing positions on the lakes due to the footpath, dogs entering the water and disturbing the fish, the detrimental effect to the habitats for water voles, kingfishers and badgers, and the possibility the public may introduce alien species such as Koi carp and goldfish into the lakes.

Public Path Orders for the work are expected to be made and advertised by early May and will be subject to a statutory objection period.

Any objections will be forwarded to the Planning Inspectorate, which could result in another public inquiry.

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