Victory for objectors in ‘hideous’ Petworth boardwalk row

Peter Jerrome, chairman of the Petworth Society who also objected, on the bridge with Gordon Stevenson
Peter Jerrome, chairman of the Petworth Society who also objected, on the bridge with Gordon Stevenson

Objectors have won their battle to have a controversial new boardwalk removed which they claimed had ‘desecrated’ a holy spring at Petworth believed to be a 16th century place of pilgrimage.

A furious row broke out after South Downs National Park volunteers built the 17 metre bridge across the footpath in front of Virgin Mary Spring.

The national park said its South Downs volunteer rangers had carried out the work at the request of West Sussex County Council which had responsibility for footpath maintenance.

The county council said it had asked for the work after an issue was raised by town councillors over a muddy patch in front of the spring.

On Friday (June 2) the county council held a meeting with representatives of the town council and the objectors and afterwards issued a statement: “A decision has been taken to remove the boardwalk and monitor the conditions on the ground over the autumn and winter to make sure safe access for users is possible.

“If work is required at the site to address any problems, that may be identified, this will be done in consultation with key stakeholders,”

Gordon Stevenson who said the boardwalk had ‘desecrated a special site of historical and spiritual significance’, told the Observer he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.

He said he believed the muddy patch of footpath had been caused by a leaking cattle trough for which the spring had got the blame.

“I and others keep the drain clean and as long as it works I think we have got the outcome we wanted and hopefully this muddy patch won’t reoccur.

“I hope lessons have been learned about consulting people in the future. I have a strong spiritual attachment to the spring as have others and this walkway was unnecessary and a complete waste of money.”

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