A LEGAL process that seeks to ensure that the public can continue to use a popular Leicester footpath is to get under way next month.
The 420m-long path – which local people say they’ve used for more than 20 years – links Victoria Park Road with University Road, passing through the campus of Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College.
Having used the path for decades, members of the public were surprised when the college closed the path last year by locking the gates at the Victoria Park end.
Keen to continue to use the footpath, the group submitted an application to the city council in February 2021, requesting the path be designated as a public right of way.
The college, however – which owns the land that’s crossed by the footpath – is challenging the public’s right to use it.
Those calling for the gates to be unlocked say that under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980, a footpath that’s been used by the public for 20 years without interruption is presumed to be a dedicated right of way.
But the college says that the path has been closed at times for maintenance, emergency evacuations and demolition works – which means that the public have not had uninterrupted access to the footpath for the required 20-year-period.
Now, having considered evidence and statements from both sides, the city council has decided to start the legal process that would designate the footpath as a public right of way.
Deputy city mayor for transport, clean air and climate emergency, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “Our Connecting Leicester programme is creating better pedestrian and cycling routes between the places where people live, and the places where they work, shop and spend their leisure time. This footpath, that links the residential area of Clarendon Park with the college and university sites, is a good example of this.
“We’re also facing challenging decarbonisation targets from the Government, including a commitment that half of all journeys will be walked or cycled by 2030, so promoting walking and cycling is key, if we are to achieve our goal and become a carbon net zero city.
“There are therefore many good reasons for wanting to see this footpath kept open as an important pedestrian route linking Victoria Park Road with University Road and the city centre beyond.
“Both the college and the footpath users have provided evidence and statements to back up their positions, which we have carefully considered. We have, however, now made our decision and will soon start the legal process that will formally add the footpath to the city’s list of public rights of way.”
Leicester City Council has a duty to maintain the ‘Definitive Map and Statement’ – the legal record of all public rights of way. Amendments or additions to this list are made by a definitive map modification order.
The modification order will be advertised next month and will be followed by a statutory period of 42 days to allow for objections to be submitted. If any objections are made, and not withdrawn, the order would have to be submitted to the Secretary of State, who would have the final say.