Call to keep Peterborough city centre path open as hearing rules it is not a public right of way

The entrance to Guildhall Walk
The entrance to Guildhall Walk

There have been calls for a pathway in Peterborough city centre to remain open - despite the Planning Inspectorate ruling it is not a public right of way.

Peterborough Civic Society said Guildhall Walk - which runs between Priestgate and Cathedral Square alongside Barclays Bank - should be considered a public right of way.

However, the bank objected to the proposals, saying historically the route had been closed to the public in the past.

In November 2015 large gates were put up by the bank closing it to pedestrians, after staff complained about anti-social behaviour in the passageway. The barriers were open between 8am and 6pm Monday-Saturday and 9am and 5pm on Sunday.

A hearing was held last month about the pathway - and now the planning inspectorate has revealed he rejected the proposals to turn it into a right of way.

Following the decision, Toby Wood, from Peterborough Civic Society said: “Peterborough Civic Society Committee is naturally disappointed at the decision but hopes that Barclays Bank continues to keep Guildhall Walk open during the day and hopefully in the evening as well. We would like to thank all those witnesses who came to support us at the enquiry.”

A spokesman for Barclays said: “We are pleased with the ruling that the Planning Inspectorate has made and that this matter has now come to a conclusion.”

Barney Grimshaw, the inspector for the inspectorate, said: “There was enough use of the Order route in the period 1995-2015 to raise a presumption that it had been dedicated as a public footpath but, there is also corroborated evidence of action taken by the landowner to close the route on at least one day each year throughout most of this period. The closure by means of chains was accompanied by clear signs indicating that the route was

a private way.”

Mr Grimshaw added: “The evidence indicates that the closure of the route by chains took place from before 1988 until 2014 and in my view there was not sufficient public use of the route throughout any 20 year period prior to 1988 to raise a presumption that it had been dedicated as a public right of way and there is some doubt as to the existence of the route before the early 1970s.

“It cannot therefore be presumed that the Order route has been dedicated as a public right of way in accordance with the provisions of the 1980 Act.”

The hearing heard from a number of residents, some who had used the route for decades.

Mr Grimshaw said: “The frequency of use described varied between several times a day and only a few times per year. However, around half of the people providing evidence claimed to have used the route at least once per week.

“Users generally stated that they had not been obstructed in their use, seen any signs discouraging use or received permission to use the route before 2015.

“Nearly all the use claimed seems to have been on foot but a few people also said that they used it with bicycles. However, the evidence of cycle use is not in my view sufficient to raise the possibility that the route might be a right of way of a higher status then footpath.”

The hearing had heard from Graham Martin, now director at Barclays Bank, Peterborough, who stated that when he first worked at the branch in 1988 it was already established practice for Guildhall Walk to be closed on at least one day each year by chains across the whole width with signs attached. The signs read “This Private Thoroughfare is Closed, No Unauthorised Access, Trespassers will be Prosecuted”.

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