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Pub battles to stop walker's short-cut
Last month, the Council published a formal notice to modify the definitive map next to the Adur Public House (a.k.a. The Blue Lagoon, 330 Kingsway, Hove) by adding a public footpath. If no objections are made by March 30th 2012, the current short-cut is confirmed as a public right of way and any gates will not be locked by the pub.
In 2008, Punch Taverns, the current freeholders, prevented access to this area at the side of the pub as part of the newly-created beer garden and by gating the steps and fencing in the playing area. Previously, the pub “tolerated” the use of the steps as a short cut between Kingsway and Wharf Road. The land belongs to the pub and indeed Punch Ltd gained planning permission to build a new terrace at the Kingsway level, providing the bar with an outside area. The lower terrace on Wharf Road would thus be enclosed. The planning decision was made under delegated powers and no Committee looked at the application in public. The terrace has not been built yet.
Local residents complained to the Council when a sign was erected to restrict public right of way. Eventually it was decided that, on balance, the alleged right of way probably does exist, as long as no-one objects. In the other hand, if there is a reasonable objection there will be a public hearing. The Governance Committee in November 2011 that decided to go ahead with changing the map had all the evidence, but none of it was tested directly.
Part of that evidence shows that the steep was in dispute as a public path in 1950 already. The steps were constructed as part and parcel of the pub itself some time ago c. 1930’s. The current dispute in 2008 generated 35 letters from residents claiming it was a normal proper right of way, either by default or otherwise. Punch Ltd relied on the fact that the onus was on the applicant to prove the landowner wanted positively allow the public to use the steps on their land (i.e. “ to dedicate the path to the public as a right of way”) and in fact the freeholder never wanted that, and only “tolerated” its use.
In the event that it goes to a public hearing, for example by Punch Ltd. making an objection, it could be an interesting re-drawing of the local geography and local walkers might have to walk a little bit longer.
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