Footpath closure in Northumberland town sparks petition

Coun Gordon Stewart, who represents Prudhoe South and is chairman of the Tynedale Local Area Council.
Coun Gordon Stewart, who represents Prudhoe South and is chairman of the Tynedale Local Area Council.

Residents are protesting against the lengthy closure of a popular footpath in a Northumberland town while a housing development is being built.

A petition of more than 200 names has been submitted in relation to public footpath number 22 in Prudhoe, from Park Lane to Stanley Burn through the former hospital site, where Gentoo is building 392 houses.

The work started in late 2016 and a six-month closure of the right of way was approved and then extended to October last year, when a further extension was granted by the Secretary of State to run until the end of April 2019.

In a report to Tuesday’s meeting of the Tynedale Local Area Council, where the issue was discussed, it was explained that a closure until April 2019 was sought in order ‘to avoid repeated requests on six-monthly intervals’.

It adds that nevertheless, ‘the council is seeking to ensure that the footpath will be made available to the public when the developer is satisfied that no danger to the public exists during the course of the temporary closure,’ but it has not been deemed safe yet.

Coun John Riddle said he understood the health and safety issues, but asked if there could be some kind of flexibility so that the route was only closed during working hours and open to the public from 5pm onwards and on weekends, for example.

The report concluded that ‘the council is satisfied that the closure of the path is necessary, but will continue to work with Gentoo Homes to secure periods during the construction phase when the closure can be temporarily suspended’.

Following the comments made at the meeting, council officer David Brookes said he would speak to Gentoo again and see what can be taken forward.

The committee chairman, Coun Gordon Stewart, who represents Prudhoe South, said: “The consensus from this meeting is, we know about the health and safety concerns to the public, but the reality is we would like Gentoo to move it forward very quickly indeed.”

By Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service