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Mullion footpath row finally resolved
7:30am Thursday 28th June 2012 in Cornwall
A footpath row that has divided the village of Mullion has been resolved after almost two years.
The Planning Inspectorate has this week ruled that Footpath 37 at Mullion Meadows can be diverted, following a public inquiry at the end of last month.
A report from inspector Martin Elliott confirms that, subject to certain modifications over the wording and elements of the map, the diversion order was now confirmed.
It means that Martin Raftery, owner of the Mullion Meadows complex of businesses, can divert part of the public footpath 37 and a section of unrecorded footpath, as well as ‘stop up’ two sections of unrecorded footpath.
He had applied to do this in order to complete work on a new office building, which is being built on top of a section of footpath. Construction work has been put on hold since October 2010, while a decision over the footpath was reached.
Speaking after this week’s announcement Mr Raftery told the Packet: “I hope that this decision brings to a close what has been a long and stressful episode.
“Aside from anything else, for two years I have been unable to complete the new office building, for which full planning consent was granted on April 30, 2010. That has meant I have been unable to recruit new staff for Cornish Cottages – employment which I hoped and still hope to be able to offer to local people.
“We will soon be recruiting new staff in readiness for the new office, which should be completed before the end of the year.”
The two-day public inquiry took place on May 24 and 25 at Mullion Women’s Institute Hall.
It heard there were 11 objections at the time of the hearing, with 46 letters of support. It was noted that some of the supporters did not live in the Mullion area.
In his subsequent report inspector Mr Elliott confirmed that, despite some objectors arguing it was only necessary to provide a route around the new office building, the diversion order was in fact still necessary to allow the office development to take place.
Objections to the diverted footpath included a claim that the alternative route passed through a grassed area that was “prone to be slippery in winter and when wet.” It was alleged that people had fallen in the past.
Concerns were also raised over the accessibility of a set of steps, the alternative route being longer and the route no longer being available to those people with a disability.
However, one woman gave evidence to say that despite being disabled she was happy to walk through the copse on the alternative route and had never had any problems with the surface.
Mr Elliott wrote: “I do not consider that the surface of the proposed alternative route is any different to that which already exists.”
He also said the overall length of the route was longer only “by a matter of metres” and he did not consider it any less accessible for people with disabilities.
With regards to concerns over the safety of steps and access onto the B3296, Mr Elliott said that as this was an existing right of way that was to be improved as a result of the order, and was not provided as an alternative footpath route, it was not for him to consider. He noted that Cornwall Council had indicated there were no records of incidents between vehicles and pedestrians, with the steps in use since 1954.
Mr Elliott wrote: “Whilst for some there may be disadvantages arising from the alternative route, there is no indication that any disadvantages are of any significance such that they outweigh the benefits of the order, which will allow development to take place in accordance with the planning permission.”
He said it was “apparent” that the development and footpath order had “led to divisions within the local community.”
Owner Mr Raftery said: “I am still at a loss to understand what the 11 objectors out of a Mullion population of about 2,000 expected to gain from forcing a public inquiry, which will have cost the taxpayer a great deal of money and need never have happened.
“And I am even more mystified as to why they claimed that I deliberately sought to build on a public footpath. To do any such thing would have been particularly stupid, and there was nothing to be gained by my doing so.”
He said offices were replacing an old farm building that had been on the same site for approximately 50 years.
Mr Raftery thanks thanked the “hundreds” of Mullion residents who had offered support, as well all their visitors and customers who had wished them a successful outcome.
“It is my sincere wish that we can all get on with our lives and businesses now and put behind us what has happened over the last two years,” he added.