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Long-running footpath row set to be resolved
A PUBLIC inquiry into a long-running dispute over a footpath has finished, but those invoved will have to wait to hear the result.
The three-day inquiry was held to decide whether a footpath along the River Tees, from Croft Workingmen’s Club to Rockliffe Hall Hotel, in Hurworth, will be used as a public right of way.
Hurworth Parish Council is in favour of the route being used as a public footpath, stating that many residents in both Croft and Hurworth have been able to use the path without interference for decades.
However, Croft Workingmen’s Club has denied the parish council’s claims and says there has never been any lawful public access to the path.
It later put a locked gate across the path after the parish council made an application to add the footpath to definitive maps of the area.
The club lost the battle at a Darlington Borough Council rights of way panel in 2011, which saw the parish council submit 164 witness statements in support of its claim, detailing use of the footpath going back more than 70 years.
The workingmen’s club appealed against the decision and the path has since remained closed off.
In his closing speech at this week’s inquiry, Robin Carr, who represented the borough council, said the landowner of the club must make it clear to the public that they are making the footpath private land.
He argued the club did not make it clear enough as the signs were “vaguely worded and difficult to interpret.” He also added a number of gates surrounding the club were only locked on a night and Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when the public would not be using them anyway.
However, Simon Catterall, a partner in Jacksons Law Firm, which is acting on behalf of the club, said Keith Woodford, secretary of the WMC, and a number of other members had regularly challenged trespassers and kept gates locked.
He said: “The reasonable person coming to the land would think it is private property.”
Inspector Michael Lowe will make the decision in the next few weeks.
The bitter dispute was due to be resolved last year, but an administrative error by the borough council led to correspondence being sent to the wrong parties.
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