Castlewood footpath closure – can you help?

Google Street View of the path before it was closed

Google Street View of the path before it was closed

Today’s post was written by Clive Barbour who is trying to get the footpath blocked by the MoD reopened. He would like to hear from people who have used the path, ideally those who have used it for 30 years. Here’s Clive’s story:

I moved to the neighbourhood in the early 1980s and almost immediately started using the footpath that runs from Shooters Hill to Academy Place.

It was so handy to nip off the bus stop after a night at the theatre as the bus then used to run then all the way from Haymarket to Shooters Hill and beyond.

And I was amazed by the meadow off Academy Place and the mature woodland on the path which meandered down to Bagshot Court, Prince Imperial Road and eventually to my house in Red Lion Lane and before that Herbert Road.

That little walk, which I often took, especially at weekends, could make you forget you were living in London but somewhere in the country as well as being a very handy shortcut.

Earlier this year as I drove up Shooters Hill I noticed the path had been closed but as there were significant building works going on at the nearby property I assumed this had been done temporarily on health and safety grounds.

But as the months passed and the path remained closed I contacted the Royal Borough of Greenwich to find out what was happenIng.

I was very disappointed to be told that the road had been closed by the Ministry of Defence.

But I wanted to find out why so I put in a Freedom of Information request to MOD asking for correspondence relating to rights of way and discussions with the Royal. Borough of Greenwich and a few weeks later a set of papers fell through my letterbox.

One email in particular grabbed my attention dated 10 October 2012 from the wonderfully named Senior Street Naming and Numbering Officer (Legal Searches) Business & Resources (Property & Transportation) at the Royal Borough of Greenwich to the Ministry of Defence.

That correspondence advised the MOD that while the footpath was privately owned “…however, it could be considered a right of way due to ‘public use over time’ I understand this requires it being in full use for over 20 years by the public.”

There was also references in the papers to complaints from the public about the closure including emails from Plumstead Runners and other people who had written to Clive Efford MP.

I have been using the footpath for over thirty years and I understand that if a path is used on Crown land for that length of time it can be deemed to be a right of way.

So I have formally written to the Royal Borough of Greenwich to protect our right, as provided for by section 130(2) of the Highways Act 1980, to enable pedestrians to continue to use this footpath and therefore be able to walk or run unhindered from Red Lion Lane to Shooters Hill via Prince Imperial Road, Bagshot Court and Academy Place and vice versa.

It is very significant that the footpath has a chicane at the Shooters Hill/Academy Place end and two bollards at the Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road end as this can only mean that the owners decided in the past that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians and not by vehicular traffic.

Bollards at Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road showing that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians

Bollards at Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road showing that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians

A few weeks ago when walking up Academy Place I noticed that there was a hole in the fence that I took the picture below which shows the chicane to prevent vehicles and the panel that has been put up to close the path.

The path now, showing the chicane to prevent vehicles

The path now, showing the chicane to prevent vehicles

I have also asked the Royal Borough of Greenwich to formally dedicate the footpaths from Shooters Hill to Academy Place and onwards to Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road as highways on the basis of a presumed dedication as provided for by section 31 of the Highways Act 1980.

The basis for this presumed dedication are:

– my continual use of this route from Red Lion Lane to Shooters Hill along these two footpaths for more than 30 years;

– the presence of the chicane and the bollards preventing vehicular access demonstrates that the owners were content for pedestrian use along this route.

But why did the MOD decide to close the footpath between Academy Place and Shooters Hill in the first place?

In a letter to the Council in 21 June 2012 they say it was because of dumping of rubbish and college students “using the area as a recreation centre to meet and socialise causing a possible nuisance”.

I raised an eyebrow when I read this as I have never encountered either of these problems and in any event even if they are,  they are entirely capable of being addressed in other ways which do not require the closure of the footpath.

I hope that I have provided enough information here to enable the Council to take the necessary action to have the route classified as a public right of way which will lead in turn to the re-opening of the footpath. My fear is that the MOD might put pressure on them not do so.

So I am asking for the help of you neighbours who have been using the footpath – ideally for 30 years – to email me on parly @ sky. com to tell me how often you used this footpath in the past and I will present any further evidence to RBG to help persuade them to reopen the path.

Thank you for any information you are able to provide.