Hatfield footpath set to become public right of way

A NATURE walk that has been the subject of dispute between Hatfield residents and a Government agency is close to being resolved – in favour of the residents.

Bunchley’s footpath, which runs from the New Barnfield roundabout in South Hatfield to Welham Green, looks set to become a designated right of way, after pressure from walkers who used to use the route.

As reported in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, the footpath was closed to the public by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which had put up signs throughout a section of the route declaring the land private.

The move was met with strong opposition from residents and politicians alike, with former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Paul Zukowskyj and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps both spearheading separate campaigns to get the pathway made public.

Mr Shapps lobbied HCA directors to remove the forbidding signs posted along the route, while Mr Zukowskyj and action group Hatfield Against Incineration (HAI) asked residents to produce depositions, saying they’d used the route as a pathway since at least 1981.

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If enough depositions were received, which they were, the HCA would have no choice but to dedicate the footpath.

Now, the signs are gone, and it seems the footpath will soon become public once again.

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Steve Collins, head of area for the HCA in the East of England, said: “We are currently working with the local authority and adjacent landowners to secure the relevant statutory consents.

“All parties have to agree in order to enable the access to be designated a public right of way. We will continue to work through this statutory process which could take a few months.”

Mr Zukowskyj said: “It’s really great that the HCA will be dedicating the footpath. Once the paperwork is done, I’m sure HAI will be having a party!”

Mr Shapps said: “We were able to join our responses with the HAI testimonials on the footpath problem. Now we’re just waiting for a decision from the county council before the footpath is made a public right for good.

“I understand that it will be remade up and be permanently available for residents to use.”

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