Battle to close school footpath

PUBLISHED: 13:55 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

THE future of a footpath running through a school s grounds is set to be decided by a public inquiry this summer. Herts County Council (HCC) voted in 2006 to shut part of Footpath 89 which separates the school buildings from the playing fields at Francis

THE future of a footpath running through a school's grounds is set to be decided by a public inquiry this summer.

Herts County Council (HCC) voted in 2006 to shut part of Footpath 89 which separates the school buildings from the playing fields at Francis Bacon in Drakes Drive, St Albans.

Councillors agreedd unanimously in favour of the extinguishment order after the school, which has been battling to close the unfenced footpath for many years, produced evidence suggesting that it was directly linked to incidents of violence and harassment.

But HCC was prevented from executing the order when St Albans District Council, local residents and a number of footpath groups objected to the closure.

The final decision is now in the hands of a Government planning inspector who will hear the public inquiry in June.

In recent years the school has attributed more than 40 incidents to the footpath including theft from the changing rooms, the breaking of windows, the caretaker being threatened, an intruder trying to sell cigarettes to pupils and a horse being allegedly ridden down the footpath in a dangerous manner.

On top of that the school also claims that in 2005 a teenager entered the school via the footpath armed with an iron bar to attack a pupil and in addition motorised scooters and bikes often used the route.

Francis Bacon maintains that CCTV and other security measures have failed to curb the problems and that fencing in the footpath would cause a health and safety risk in the event of a fire.

But the district council believes that other measures to improve security have not been properly considered, that the alternative route is not "reasonably convenient" and that HCC has not given proper consideration to a diversion route within the school grounds.

Letters of objection also flooded in from local residents and footpath groups on the grounds that the right-of-way is a valuable amenity.

The public inquiry will commence at 10am on June 3 at the Trestle Arts Base in Russet Drive, St Albans.

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