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Birchwood High School defends decision to fence off woodland footpath from Raynham Road

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A Bishop's Stortford secondary school has defended its decision to fence off a footpath across its land used by pupils and parents from a nearby primary.

The walkway on land near Birchwood High, in Parsonage Lane, was said by deputy principal Charles Gilbank to be a "permissive path" owned by the school where members of the public – including those who use it as a short cut from Raynham Road to Summercroft Primary School – have permission to cross the area.

But during last week's half-term youths riding motorbikes trespassed on the land, said Mr Gilbank, and after reporting the incident to police a decision was made to put up a fence at the Raynham Road entrance to the path.

The fence at the entrance to the path on land opposite Birchwood High (55024629)
The fence at the entrance to the path on land opposite Birchwood High (55024629)

"We were also concerned about people walking across the wooded area with the recent high winds," he said, adding a meeting would be held with Summercroft Primary in Plaw Hatch Close to discuss the issue.

The move was criticised by residents posting on Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation's Facebook page, with one mum estimating that it meant she had to walk a further three-quarters of a mile to take her five-year-old daughter to Summercroft.

Kirstin Bolton said that the footpath was put in place as part of education authority Herts County Council’s safer routes to school programme.

"There are a lot of parents that use this on a daily basis and have done for years," she said.

"I record my steps/routes regularly and normally it’s a 1.86-mile walk there and back. Today it was 2.6 miles, so it's substantially longer for my five-year-old's little legs."

Kirstin added that in response to a question during Birchwood's public consultation about its proposed sports and leisure scheme on the land, it stated Summercroft families would be permitted to use the path until an alternative was in place.

Another mum, Liz Murphy, said: "It made an already difficult journey to school this morning even more difficult."

Former county, district and town councillor Colin Woodward, who lives on Parsonage, said that the route had been established many years ago.

"Specifically this was to encourage a woodland walk, but also to remove some traffic and parking from Parsonage Lane," he said.

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