Anger over Stevenage footpath access

Cllr Robin Parker at the kissing gate in Fry Road with a resident affected

Cllr Robin Parker at the kissing gate in Fry Road with a resident affected - Credit: Archant

A FOOTPATH which has been open to the public for decades has had its access restricted following the opening of a school.

Pedestrian routes surrounding Marriotts Lonsdale School in Stevenage are no longer open on a 24-hour basis, with three kissing gates used to access the path not suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooter users.

The gates, in Brittain Way, Fry Road and Priestley Road, are open to the public in the day but access is restricted at night through to morning.

Hertfordshire county councillor Robin Parker has had a number of residents in his Chells division raise concerns about the restrictions, put in place by contractors Balfour Beatty ahead of the school’s opening last month.

Cllr Parker said: “Residents rightly complained to me that the 24-hour right of way they had enjoyed since the 1960s was to be removed at certain hours of the evening, night and morning.

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“This would severely hinder many of them who leave for work early or return in the evening and who may use the perimeter route, perhaps to get to the bus stop in Six Hills Way near Fry Road.”

While building work was ongoing, Cllr Parker repeatedly raised the issue with Hertfordshire County Council, which has overseen the build.

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He added: “Nobody was able to give me any reason why the gates had to be locked at certain times and what the legal situation was over an apparent right of way going back 50 years.

“I was, however, told the right of way issue would be open to a legal challenge, should any local residents wish to do so.”

A mobility scooter user, who lives in Pankhurst Crescent but asked not to be named, said: “I used to use it every single day when taking the dog for a walk. It’s not on and discriminatory against those who aren’t able-bodied. The gates affect those with buggies, prams and bicycles as well.”

A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council said: “There is no public right of way across the site, however we have worked hard to ensure that the local community can continue to enjoy 24 hour access across the site.

“Kissing gates have been installed to allow walkers access, but prevent motorbikes and quad bikes accessing the playing fields and damaging pitches at night. This has caused problems in the past and been a disturbance to other residents in the area.

“The fencing and kissing gates do require some modifications and we are working with Balfour Beatty Construction to get the gates and fencing replaced as soon as possible. We are confident this solution will accommodate the needs of all legitimate users, whilst preventing vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”

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