‘Don’t scare off Wetherspoon’s’ - North Walsham Town Council votes against access bid

Standing from left: Councillor Eric Seward, Ann Moore and Roger Hopkinson. Front: Ken Wheeler (left)

Standing from left: Councillor Eric Seward, Ann Moore and Roger Hopkinson. Front: Ken Wheeler (left) and David Clarke in front of the fenced-off former thoroughfare linking Hall Lane and New Road, North Walsham. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

The fear of scaring away Wetherspoon's means a town council will not be pursuing an access claim.

A number of elderly residents and people with disabilities have complained that a cut-through they used in North Walsham was fenced off by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) just before Christmas.

The cut-through, linking Hall Lane and New Road, is part of an NNDC-owned site which it is selling to pub giant JD Wetherspoon for redevelopment into a family restaurant.

Cut-through users are now forced to go via Church Street to visit the Post Office, library, community centre and Lidl, and say its pavements are dangerously narrow for wheelchair, walking frame and mobility scooter users.

Mary Seward asked fellow North Walsham Town Council members to agree to gather evidence to submit to the county council in a bid to get the link recognised as a legally-permitted public right of way.

'We need to have some sort of access here for our people. This fencing off has caused a lot of disturbance, and I think the town council is best placed to make this application for legal recognition,' she said.

But Garry Bull disagreed: 'At the end of the day this access is only used by a few people and we have to bear in mind the interests of the town as a whole,' he said.

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'We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't. If Wetherspoon's found that there was going to be a legal right of way across their car park they might say: 'Get lost' and walk away. We should be very wary about what we do.'

Mayor Barry Hester said residents who used the cut-through could not have it both ways. They had complained, when Wetherspoon's announced that it wanted to buy the site, that people who had been drinking in the pub would be walking past their homes. Now they wanted the cut-through kept open.

Town councillors did agree to see if they could trace the owner of another lesser-used path linking Hall Lane and New Road, next door to the New Road Bowls and Snooker Club.

Clerk Nick Clancy said he understood the current owner had bought the path for £1.

Parts of it were very narrow and only about one third of its length was paved. The council wanted to talk to the owner about improving it.

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