Compromise offered over Midhurst footpath row

C111152-2 Mid Path Protest  Photo Louise Adams''Lead campaigner Graham Ault.
C111152-2 Mid Path Protest Photo Louise Adams''Lead campaigner Graham Ault.

Footpath campaigners at Midhurst have been offered a compromise in their bid to get a permissive path, blockaded by the development of the new academy, re-opened.

More than 40 people turned out for a demonstration in July to protest at the closure of part of the path linking Half Moon Corner on the A272 Petersfield road with Lamberts Lane in Midhurst town centre.

The route crossed Cowdray Estate land and was given permissive path status by the estate several years ago in recognition of its regular use.

It was arbitrarily shut by the county council at the Lamberts Lane end almost a year ago, to make room for the £31m redevelopment of Midhurst Rother College.

Now, however, a public consultation period has begun on a Cowdray Estate offer to introduce a new permissive path across its land. The path would go around the perimeter of the school site, linking the remaining part of the existing path with the new Rother Walk to North Mill Bridge, at the northern end of North Street.

The consultation is being carried out by West Sussex County Council, with October 26 the deadline for comments.

Substantial objections would mean the proposal being referred to the county’s rights of way committee for a decision on whether to go ahead.

The proposal is under consideration by the South Downs Society, which has spearheaded the challenge to the closure of the Lamberts Lane link.

The society believes a more direct diversion could be achieved, enabling access still to be gained from Lamberts Lane but from a different point.

Its director, Jacquetta Fewster, said: “While obviously it would be a great addition to have the new route, it is not the direct route into the town centre we are pressing for.

“We take on board that a diversion around the edge of the school would be of huge benefit but the people who have used the path for many years want it to come out on to Lamberts Lane.

“We are therefore considering our response.”

The compromise now on the table follows comments made by Robert Windle, Lord Cowdray’s agent, in the wake of the July demonstration when he said he was confident the estate would be able to work with the county council to find a suitable solution.