Public use of footpaths across Felpham fields confirmed

Councillors have agreed that three footpaths across fields in Felpham should be added to public rights of way maps.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 11:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 11:07 am
Residents pictured this summer angry at the fencing off of one of the fields

The first route starts at Brooks Lane and runs north-east across the fields to Downview School; the second heads south-east to the Arun Leisure Centre; and the third circles the main field, roughly following the route of a stream.

During a meeting of West Sussex County Council’s planning & rights of way committee on Tuesday (October 12), members were told that the application had been received in May 2019 and was supported by evidence from 107 people who use the paths.

It was also supported by councillors Francis Oppler (Lib Dem, Bognor Regis East) and John Charles (Con, Felpham).

Mr Oppler said he strongly supported the application as the land was easily accessible for ‘dog walkers, school children and those who just want to walk in the countryside’.

He added: “The three footpaths have been in constant use for at least the past 50 years, if not longer than that.

“Currently, members of the public have no access to Brooks’ field as the owner has fenced off all the access points.”

Mr Oppler pointed out that the application had also been supported by Bognor Regis Town Council, the South Downs National Park Authority and Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton.

He said their support gave ‘a good understanding to the strength of evidence, not to mention the widespread community support, in favour of making these paths public rights of way’.

Mr Charles called the paths ‘a vital link’ as they were well-used by Downview pupils.

He predicted that, without them, the number of cars parking around the school at the start and end the day would increase.

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A joint objection from nine landowners opposed the north-eastern part of the first route, while another landowner – Richard Brooks – filed his own objection.

A report to the committee said Mr Brooks bought land in 2016 which is crossed by all three paths.

It added: “Mr Brooks states that, each year, the application routes which cross his land are muddy, rotted and covered in blackberry bushes.

“[He] advised that when he initially purchased the land, he tried to erect fencing panels which he claims were subsequently removed by the general public.

“Mr Brooks stated that originally, he was happy to allow the public use of one path across the land but that he does not agree with the three routes that are now being claimed in the application.”

The application was approved unanimously.

Officers will now ‘make’ the orders, giving time for anyone opposed to the paths to speak up.

Should that happen, the orders will be sent to the planning inspectorate and the decision will be left up to them – which they will either do in writing or via a public enquiry.