AN UNUSUAL dispute over a public footpath could go in favour of residents who illegally blocked the right of way more than a decade ago.
People in Airdrie Close, Yeading, are angry at plans to unblock the path, which links their quiet cul-de-sac and West Quay Drive, and leads to Willow Tree Marina.
Fears over anti-social behaviour in the late 1990s and an alleged child abduction led residents to block the walkway with a wooden fence. It has remained closed ever since.
Last April, Hillingdon Council was tipped off about the obstruction, which had gone unnoticed for more than 10 years.
The decision to ‘stop up’ a public right of way can only taken by a magistrate, if the route is deemed not to be needed or if a legal diversion has been agreed. Councils have a duty to reopen such paths for public use if they are blocked.
About a dozen local people and Councillor Janet Duncan (Lab, Yeading), showed up at a petition meeting on Wednesday last week to try to persuade Councillor Keith Burrows, the cabinet member for planning, transportation and recycling, to keep the blocked.
Louise Branchflower, 46, told the Gazette: “We are being told that everyone should be able to use the path, but we have the right to a safer neighbourhood.
“This is a quiet street where lots of kids play on the street, and we want it to keep it that way.”
Mr Burrows was ready to sanction the removal of the fence against neighbours’ wishes, but a last-minute intervention from one family has turned the tables.
A home handover pack given to Gita and Sunil Popat when they moved to Airdrie Close two years ago contains documents showing the council agreed in principle in 1998 to the closure of the path, after the majority of households voted in favour of it.
The meeting was adjourned so the council to look into the revelation further.
Mrs Popat, 44, said: “We are all determined to follow this through. There are lots of paths nearby, and no one has complained about it in all these years.”