Tadcaster footpath inquiry enters second week

The wall blocking the footpath off Wighill Lane in Tadcaster. (GL1001/16d).
The wall blocking the footpath off Wighill Lane in Tadcaster. (GL1001/16d).

The public inquiry into reopening the Tadcaster footpath that has been blocked for three years is going well, according to campaigners.

An action group of local residents has been working towards the hearing, which could see the path between Wighill Lane and the viaduct reopened for public use, after it was blocked by a wall built by landowners Samuel Smith’s Brewery in 2012.

Now into its second week, the inquiry, due to end on February 18, 2015, is seeing some progress, according to campaigner Patrick Tunney.

He said: “It is difficult to judge these things, and we realise it is only early, but I would guess we are ahead.

“We are hopeful of a resolution in our favour. We have a strong case and that has been backed up by strong evidence and we will be a bit clearer at the end of this week.

“We have always maintained that we have a strong case and there has been nothing we have seen that has deterred us from that.”

The fight to reopen the path is based on two points: the common law on the existence of a right of way and proof of 20 years’ continuous use.

The first week of the inquiry, launched after applications were submitted to North Yorkshire County Council, saw witnesses on behalf of the council testifying to this.

The second week, now underway, has been set aside for witnesses to speak for the objector, and the final day, next Wednesday, February 18, will be used for summing up.

The government inspector will then go away and deliberate and a decision is not expected for several months.

Tadcaster division Coun Chris Metcalfe (Con) said he has been doing everything he can as county councillor to support the action group bringing the case.

“While I am very supportive of what they are doing, and I am doing all I can to assist them, it is being fought very strongly by the community who have a large wealth of evidence about usage over a number of years across that piece of land,” he said.

“I have been a long time supporter of trying to find an alternative route across the river and I worked very closely with the previous landowner to establish a right of way across there to get it more formalised.

“Regrettably he sold the land on and at that stage the route was closed and hence we are where we are.

“I find it very, very disappointing and I am doing all that I can to support the community group to win the case and get it opened again.

“The key strength of this is that is being brought not by a statutory body but by a community group - people who have valued that crossing for a number of years.”

Samuel Smith’s Brewery did not provide a comment.

Go to www.wetherbynews.co.uk for an update on this story once the final day has ended.