Footpath fencing row: law is on owner’s side

RIVERBANK RUMBLE: Walker Bill Ward and his dog negotiate the new route of the footpath

RIVERBANK RUMBLE: Walker Bill Ward and his dog negotiate the new route of the footpath

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A LANDOWNER was within his rights to erect a fence on the route of the Millennium footpath – but whether this was in the best interests of the Manx people was ‘certainly debateable’.

That’s the view of Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne who was questioned in the House of Keys over changes to the footpath running alongside the Silverburn River.

A fence has been erected by a section of the path at Ronaldsway to protect walkers from excavation work for the new natural gas pipeline. But critics say the new line of the path is dangerous.

One Ballasalla resident Bill Ward complained to Isle of Man Newspapers, claiming that the fence was in the wrong place and pedestrians were now being pushed towards the river and had to negotiate their way over bramble beds.

Replying to a Keys question from Peter Karran (Lib Vannin, Onchan), however, Mr Gawne said that according to the definitive map, the original true position of the path runs along the bank of the Silverburn.

The absence of a fence previously had enabled most walkers to stray from the defined path, not helped by the growth of vegetation on some parts of the path. This line was now on the other side of the fence.

Mr Gawne, who said he had used the path himself over ‘many, many years’, said: ‘The footpath clearly is shown on the definitive map as being adjacent to the bank of the river, so the landowner is within his rights.

‘Whether this is in the best interests of the Manx people is certainly debateable. However, the law is the law.’

He said during the course of the works to erect the fence, the overgrown vegetation had been cut back in order to allow the original line of the footpath to be re-established.

There was nothing to prevent the landowner erecting a fence, he added, provided that a minimum 3ft width path remained available for the use of public and in this case a greater width than the minimum requirement had been allowed. Mr Karran said the path was now ‘near on impossible’ to use by older walkers.

Mr Gawne was also questioned over changes to the route of the footpath running from the coastal footpath to the Balthane Industrial Estate, between the Turkeylands Quarry and the airfield fence.

He explained that his department had received an application to permanently divert the public right of way in order to allow the access road to Turkeylands Quarry to be improved.

Planning permission was granted in March 2009 to allow the quarry to be used for the disposal of incinerator bottom ash which, when operations begin, traffic along the access road would increase.

Mr Gawne said until a decision on the final order was taken, his department had granted permission for a temporary diversion to be put in place.

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