Villagers and walkers are preparing for the final showdown in a six-year dispute over a closed footpath.
Clitheroe Ramblers and residents at Whalley and Barrow claim a footpath next to The Eagle at Barrow, formerly the Spread Eagle pub, was blocked without permission in 2007, and a kitchen extension has since been built across it.
Lancashire County Council, backed by residents, is applying for a Definitive Map Modification Order that would reopen the path and is taking the dispute to a public inquiry.
Businessman Mr Kevin Berkins, who owns The Eagle and has carried out major refurbishments there, is opposing the county council’s move.
Now the two sides will face each other at a public inquiry on July 23rd and to be held at Ribble Valley Council offices.
It is expected to last two days and the evidence will be weighed by a Government-appointed inspector who will make a final ruling.
Veteran footpath campaigner Mr Norman Thorpe, who lives at Barrow, said he first used the path, officially listed as Whalley Footpath No 5, in 1952.
He said: “It went from Brook House Farm, off Mitton Road, across the railway line and through the fields, through the farmyard at Spread Eagle Farm and finished at what was the A59. There used to be a footpath sign there.
“There were never any problems with the family at the farm, the Littles, who used to wave at people walking through.
“We have evidence from Mr Ian Little, the last of the family there and who now lives in Scotland, that his family always regarded it as a right of way.
“After the farm was sold, the path went through the pub car park to the main road.”
Mr Thorpe added the last few yards of the path were first diverted to the north of the pub garden, then later metal gates were installed, blocking it.
He said a mistake was made when the official footpath map was drawn up, showing the path stopping short at the farmyard, although the definitive statement described it as finishing at the old A59.
He added: “There are more than enough witnesses to confirm it has been a right of way for more than 20 years.”
Mr Berkins, who also has a large butchery business and owns the Fence Gate Inn, near Burnley, was returning from holiday as the Advertiser and Times went to press, but a spokesperson for him said he disputed the ramblers’ assertions and would reply later.