Park is urged to grab last chance for popular Midhurst footpath

Campaigners protesting in 2011
Campaigners protesting in 2011

A last ditch attempt is being made to reinstate a popular footpath in Midhurst after it was controversially closed seven years ago to make way for the £31m redevelopment of Midhurst Rother College.

A campaign in 2011 to save the link across the Cowdray Estate’s Whiphill farmland from Lamberts Lane to Woolbeding in 2011 failed when West Sussex County Council said no public access could be allowed across the school site to ensure the security of pupils.

Walkers went on the war path and organised a rally to demonstrate their frustration at the closure of the path.

Campaigners were partially successful after the creation of alternative permissive paths which gave some access to open countryside around the town.

But a planning application recently submitted to the national park for new housing in Lamberts Lane has opened up the possibility of getting an improved and more direct path to Whiphill.

South Downs Society policy officer Steve Ankers said this would avoid the busy roads north and south of the Midhurst Rother College and the society was urging park planners to take seriously.

“We don’t always rush to back proposals for new housing in the national park but in this case we’re talking about a brownfield site near the centre of Midhurst,” said Steve, “and this is a real opportunity to improve access to the delights of the national park. We’ve urged the Park Authority to be creative.”

The society stepped in at the 11th hour in 2011 to try and prevent the closure of the footpath linking the centre of Midhurst to its surrounding countryside.

Members said the decision created a gap in the well established long distance footpath to Chichester and severed a link with paths to Woolbeding and beyond in the new national park.

They were angry the decision had been taken without public consultation.

Their campaign was supported by many local walkers and by the Ramblers Association.

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