St James Park, Stortford South: Developer Countryside finally begins reinstating 'obliterated' Thorley footpaths
The developer building homes at St James Park site has finally begun reinstating two footpaths in Thorley, which community campaigners say had been "obliterated", after it was warned failure to do so could lead to prosecution.
Cllr Graham McAndrew revealed that Countryside had been told by the Rights of Way arm of Hertfordshire County Council that it was required to comply with a November 2 deadline to reinstate Footpaths 1 and 3.
He stated that failure to do so could result in prosecution, stop notices on the development, and referral to the Health and Safety Executive, as the public will then be entitled to use the routes.
The footpaths were closed after being subject to temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) and were due to open in August, but Countryside was given permission to extend the TTROs until November for further groundwork.
Bishop's Stortford Footpath Association was angry with the delay and accused the developer of leaving the footpaths "obliterated".
Cllr McAndrew, who is a county councillor for the Bishop's Stortford Rural division, an East Herts district councillor for the Bishop's Stortford South ward and East Herts Council's executive member for environmental sustainability, raised the issue with Countryside and the appropriate council officers.
Dave Webber, from the footpath association, was frustrated that initially developers stated in October 2020 the footpaths would be closed for only 12 weeks and told the Indie in August that "a considerable amount of work" would be needed to get them serviceable.
But at the weekend Countryside began work to restore the footpaths in time for the November 2 deadline.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council told the Indie: "We have written to advise Countryside Properties that they are duty bound to reinstate the paths to a safe and usable condition in time for the end of the current temporary traffic regulation order on November 2. After this date users will again have a legal entitlement to use the routes."
Asked what sanctions Countryside could face if it did not comply, the spokesman added: "Our priority is to work with landowners to make sure they understand and comply with their legal duties around public rights of way. We find that this approach solves the majority of problems.
"If a landowner isn’t fulfilling their responsibilities, we will issue enforcement notices and, ultimately, we have the power to take landowners to court to ensure that the public’s rights are upheld."
A spokesperson for Countryside said they were operating "within the time frame permitted" and were on track to open the footpaths on time.
"We are working closely with our contractor to ensure these works are completed in a timely manner so these footpaths can be reopened at the earliest opportunity," added the spokesperson.
"We would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding while these works are underway”.