Rail company accused of ‘stealing’ footpath in ongoing right of way battle
Richard Evans, Local democracy reporter
Network Rail has been accused of trying to ‘steal’ a footpath crossing a railway line from Conwy residents.
At a Conwy County Council meeting, councillors heard how Network Rail is still trying to permanently close the footpath crossing the rail tracks in Deganwy, arguing it is unsafe.
Footpath 73 at Pentywyn Hill connected the main road with the coastal path. But councillors said Network Rail removed one of the stiles in 2011 and has repeatedly attempted to stop the route reopening.
This is despite an inquiry deeming the route a public right of way. Councillors heard how the rail company appealed, lost and then took the case to the High Court of Appeal, which they again lost.
The crossing required pedestrians to climb a stile, abide by a stop, look and listen sign and cross the railway before exiting via another stile. But the route remains fenced off.
In January of this year, Network Rail requested that Conwy’s Licensing Committee ‘extinguish’ the path. But this request was rejected, and the rail company are now indicating that they may close the adjoining coastal path – as they own the land.
Right of way
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Mike Priestley slammed the rail company, going as far as accusing them of ‘stealing’ the route when they originally closed the path over a decade ago.
“In 2011 Network Rail came along and stole a footpath from the residents of Marl and Deganwy,” he said.
“They basically just closed this footpath. We had an inquiry, and the inspector agreed there was a right of way; there was a footpath there. Obviously, Network Rail were not happy with that. They threatened the former MP and myself with costs, which would have been tens of thousands (of pounds), so you can imagine the worry and concern that caused myself and the MP.
“That just gives you a flavour of their attitude to this. Anyway, the inspector agreed there was a right of way. Network Rail then went to the court of appeal. The court of appeal in London agreed with us that there was a right of way. Network Rail then went to the High Court of Appeal, and they lost there too.”
Cllr Priestley then asked what the cabinet was doing to protect the path.
Cllr Greg Robbins is the cabinet member for environment, roads and facilities and indicated the council would do all it could to protect the crossing.
“It should be noted that closure of the coast path is only being put forward as hypothetical future risk mitigation at this point,” he said.
“If it was seriously attempted, the council would consider utilising all available legislation to protect the public interest and public use of this valuable piece of infrastructure, which was constructed at considerable public expense by this council. This includes compulsory powers for the creation of a footpath under section 26 of the Highways Act 1980.”
He added: “We hope it does not come to this, of course, and that Network Rail will work with us as a council and a local community to provide a crossing in this area, and maybe a bridge is the only safe option. If that is the case the location may need to be slightly different to facilitate the infrastructure required.”
Cllr Robbins then added the cabinet would likely include the route in its healthy active travel map, which is looked on favourably by Welsh Government legislation.
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