Pub boss holds out in footpath battle

The metal gates and the yard where the footpath will go through.
The metal gates and the yard where the footpath will go through.

Pub boss Kevin Berkins is defying demands to take the gates off his service yard to allow an old footpath to reopen.

Ramblers won their case at a 2013 public inquiry after the inspector ruled there was a public right of way from Clitheroe Road, next to the pub, through to the fields next to the former Spread Eagle Farm, which has been converted to cottages.

The ruling also affects a neighbouring cottage where the owner is said to have co-operated.

Conflict had arisen because the definitive footpath map showed the Whalley Number 5 footpath stopping about 60m short of Clitheroe Road at a field gate next to the farm. According to the official written description it continued through to the road, the old route of the A59.

But, despite being ordered to re-create the path, Mr Berkins has ignored the demand and now Lancashire County Council has ordered contractors to do it.

Veteran footpath campaigner Mr Norman Thorpe, who represented the Ramblers at the inquiry, said: “Mr Berkins has delayed everything as much as he could, but it’s pointless as he’s going to lose.

“When the inquiry found there was a footpath, Mr Berkins was given due time to remove the obstruction – a high metal gate with spikes on top and a stone wall at the back – and he didn’t remove them.

“I can’t see what he hopes to gain by delaying.”

The county council, which had backed the Ramblers’ case, served a notice requiring the work be done, and after it expired at the end of January contractors were sent in.

David Goode, Lancashire County Council public rights of way manager, said: “The right of way runs to the side of The Eagle pub and along the boundary of the garden of a residential property.

“A contractor is currently working on behalf of the county council and the resident to put up a fence separating the path from the garden, put in a gate to give access to the field to the rear, and remove the steel gate at the side of the pub.

“The work also involves making some minor improvements to the path and will be completed shortly so people can use the path.”

At the inquiry, Mr Berkins claimed he had made all the necessary searches when he bought the former Spread Eagle in 2008, and planners had asked him to site the service yard at the side, to keep deliveries away from the car park.

He said no footpath existed, but 10 witnesses, apart from Mr Thorpe, said they had used the path over many years.

Mr Berkins said: “I’ve been in touch with Nigel Evans and he’s looking into the situation.

“The gate is open and the stone wall is not my responsibility. Other than that, I’m not prepared to comment further.”