There is anger among residents after a popular path has been blocked off by a landowner in Northampton. West Northants Labour Group said they were “outraged” at the “sudden blocking” of a key active travel route.
Residents previously raised concerns about the possible fencing off of the footpath next to the old public toilets at the corner of Cattlemarket Road and Bridge Street earlier this week.
West Northants Labour Group said they raised the issue with West Northamptonshire Council officers in the “hope something could be done”. Although the path is not a public right of way, it is recognised as being used to access the canal.
It is also a registered Sustrans Active Travel Route (Route 563) used by cyclists and walkers every day. It was even used on the route of the Amazing Northampton Run on September 17.
West Northants Labour Group claims that “no warning or notification” was given by the landowner before the fence was put up and residents are now “rightfully outraged” by this turn of events.
Cllr Emma Roberts, Labour Councillor for Delapre and Rushmere, said: “All applications for development have been refused. It’s useless to the owner.
“Let’s have it back, open it up to all, clean up the area and dedicate the spot to the heritage and history of Northampton and welcome it as a true active travel route. I want WNC to try to take back the land and ensure this never happens again.”
When contacted, a spokesperson for West Northamptonshire Council said: “West Northamptonshire Council seeks to work with land owners to consider the appropriate use of footpaths to ensure public safety.
“The footpath is not adopted highways and is currently closed to the public by the landowner to ensure the safety of the community. Should they wish to reopen this to the public, we would work with them to offer practical guidance on how best to approach this to enable connectivity and public safety.”
Dr Declan Ryan PHD is a Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at the Universty of Northampton. He tweeted about the incident last Thursday (September 21) evening.
He wrote: “Concerns on @SustransEMids Route 536 Northampton, which has been blocked by private development. 10 people turned around in the time it’s taken to tweet this.
“Astonishing that a main active travel route through the town has been blocked. Health and Equality Impact Assessments?”
A petition has also been launched by Cllr Julie Davenport about reopening the path, saying it has offered a “safe and convenient route for countless individuals traveling to work, visiting the hospital or accessing the town centre”.
The petition added: “The closure of this pathway has caused significant inconvenience and disruption to our daily routines. The benefits provided by this river path extend far beyond mere convenience.
“Its picturesque surroundings offer respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life, providing a tranquil space where individuals can unwind and reconnect with nature. Countless studies have shown that exposure to green spaces positively impacts mental health and overall well-being.”