Arundel ‘footpath-gate’ saga puts centuries-old route’s existence in question

DM15226744a.jpg Residents outraged at developers' plans to erect a gate across 200-year-old footpath off Queen Street, Arundel. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-151116-181722008

DM15226744a.jpg Residents outraged at developers' plans to erect a gate across 200-year-old footpath off Queen Street, Arundel. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-151116-181722008

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IT WAS on an 1841 map and clearly referenced by a county council officer in 2006 – but a centuries-old Arundel footpath has now seemingly vanished from all records.

Residents were angered this week when developer McCarthy and Stone gated-off the well-trodden path, which cuts through Caen Stone Court, in Queen Street.

An 1841 map of Arundel shows the footpath, to be gated-off by a developer SUS-151117-120813001

An 1841 map of Arundel shows the footpath, to be gated-off by a developer SUS-151117-120813001

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) says there is no right of way, despite the path being clearly referred to during the original planning application for Caen Stone Court.

“There is a public footpath between Queen Street and Fitzalan Road which must be maintained,” a county council rights of way officer reported in 2006.

On Tuesday, a county council spokesman said: “We can confirm there is no recorded public footpath through McCarthy and Stone’s site at Caen Stone Court.

“A number of local residents have suggested there is a public footpath, however, having checked our records this is not the case.”

Residents have charted the footpath’s history back as early as 1789, when it was used to access seven former cottages running perpendicular to Queen Street.

It was re-routed following the housing development, with amendments to the plans being submitted to Arun District Council following rejection of initial proposals.

The developer’s drawings expressly marked the path as a ‘right of way’, noting its addition and re-routing.

Last year, signs were put up in an attempt to deter residents using the path, with work starting on Monday to install a locked gate to block the route through.

Arundel and Walberton district councillor Paul Dendle said: “I think it is wholly inappropriate for a developer to do what they are doing.

“Footpaths are something that have been maintained for hundreds of years and something we need to preserve for the general benefit of the public.”

Charly Gascoigne, owner of Gaskyns Café, sited opposite the footpath in Queen Street, said the path was used as a safe route between the two roads.

While another footpath exists nearby, residents see the route as an important part of the town’s history, having been maintained through various changes of use of the surrounding buildings.

Mr Gascoigne said: “It has been that footpath for at least 200 years.

“It (McCarthy and Stone) is just another big corporate company that seems to get away with blue murder.”

Residents, including Philip Gadsby, of Queen Street, have been in contact with county council officers to resolve the issue but have been faced with a brick wall.

The map is not shown on the definitive map which details public footpaths. Mr Gadsby fears an incomplete legal agreement enshrining the newly-routed path was never followed through.

In an email exchange with a WSCC officer, he was told they were ‘at a loss’ to explain the original comments.

A WSCC spokesman claimed the original comment was ‘a mistake’.

He added: “We have advised many parties that a footpath could be claimed through either long standing use – a minimum of 20 years – or archival evidence.

“To date nobody has made an application.”

Mr Gadsby said an application for a definitive map modification order was made in 2005 by a resident but the outcome is unclear.

McCarthy and Stone was contacted for comment on the issue.

A spokesman declined to comment before the paper went to press.

The gate was due to be finished on Wednesday, with workers arriving on site on Monday to prepare the ground.