Emergency bridleway to open in Harborough - 15 months after housing developers closed the old right of way
A new emergency bridleway is set to open in Market Harborough – 15 months after an ancient right of way was shut.
The “alternative” path on Farndon Fields should be opened to the public on Friday February 7 as a new estate is built there.
But outraged conservation and countryside campaigners branded the move “too little too late”.
Fury has erupted because the ancient route known as A105 snaking up towards East Farndon has been closed since November 2018.
It was blocked off when Avant Homes starting building yet more houses on the fast-growing Farndon Fields development.
The Nottingham-based builder is now carving out a new temporary path after finally being jolted into action.
An Avant Homes spokeswoman told the Harborough Mail: “Following discussions with Leicestershire County Council, we can confirm a re-established and alternative route for the bridleway has been agreed.
“Works have begun immediately and the temporary route is due to open on Friday 7 February.”
She said they are also working towards reopening the much-loved historic bridleway by the end of this year.
“We expect to be in a position to open a further section of the closed bridleway in the spring, with the permanent route to be fully opened at the end of 2020,” she said.
“It remains our priority to ensure members of the public are safe during ongoing heavy building work across the path.”
A Leicestershire County Council spokesman said: “We visited the site last week to inspect the alternative route proposed by the developer.
“Before it can be opened, sections of the route need clearing and making safe.”
He said they had told Avant Homes it was their responsibility to offer people an alternative route.
“Discussions with the developer have been positive and they are aware of their responsibilities,” said the spokesman.
“The target date to get the work completed and the route open is Friday February 7.”
But furious Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, the UK’s oldest national conservation body, told the Mail: “This is far too little too late.
“It’s just not good enough.
“This fantastic bridleway has already been closed almost 15 months.
“And it will have been denied to the people of Market Harborough and beyond for two years by the time it’s supposed to reopen at the end of this year.”
She blasted the county council for allowing Avant Homes to shut the popular route for so long without an alternative.
“The council’s rolled over, mucked around and totally failed to carry out their strategic duty to protect our ancient rights of way,” said Kate.
“This is better than nothing.
“But the council has let local people down badly and should be ashamed.
“They should have been tough with the developer from the start but they’ve let them get away with it.”
Veteran rambler Peter Pollak, 74, of Limner Street, Farndon Fields, said: “Horseriders, cyclists, walkers and runners have used this bridleway thousands of times over the ages.
“This unique public route to the west of Harborough leads up towards East Farndon.
“It feeds into a whole network of paths taking people out into our gorgeous countryside.
“It’s crucial and it’s criminal it’s been closed so long.”
Peter, a member of the Open Spaces Society, added: “This route stretches back hundreds of years.
“It’s a vital right of way – we wouldn’t dream of suddenly closing the M1 or the M25 to motorists.
“The builder and the council should have given us an alternative route to follow right at the start of building work.
“It’s an absolute scandal.”