Clarity over status of Buckingham footpath dispute finally achieved (now you can have your say)

The Railway Walk footpath in Buckingham
The Railway Walk footpath in Buckingham

The status of the dispute regarding the much-disputed Railway Walk footpath through Buckingham appears to have finally been clarified on Thursday this week, but not before a bizarre series of twists and turns.

The strange run of events began two weeks ago when this paper reported that Buckingham Town Council has asked residents to provide 'evidence of use' to the county council of a footpath through the University of Buckingham.

Site plan showing Railway Walk footpath as 'permissive'

Site plan showing Railway Walk footpath as 'permissive'

The town council is requesting that the Railway Walk footpath be designated a statutory public right of way, whilst the university development plans only provide a permissive right of way, meaning they could block public access in the future.

Purportedly responding to our article and the actions of the Town Council, the University wrote a letter to this paper, beginning “Following the story ‘Call for Buckingham residents to stand up for popular footpath’ in January 11 Buckingham Advertiser”.

The letter, which appears to represent a u-turn by the university, was published in last week’s edition.

However, at the time we went to print we were unable to confirm with the planning authority, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC), that plans had been sufficiently updated, since the most recently submitted site plan still referred to the Railway Walk as a permissive path.

In what became a frantic Thursday last week here at the paper, we received multiple communications from university spokespeople insisting that they are meeting the town council’s requirements.

But then an unexpected twist in the tale changed the picture entirely.

The university initially contacted us by phone to express concern that they had in fact been talking about a different footpath the whole time, both in the letter that they sent to us and throughout the subsequent communication.

Today, we have received the following statement from a University of Buckingham spokesperson:

"The objection raised by the Town Council was about access across the site from Station Terrace to Chandos Road on which we have agreed to make a concession to designate that route so that it is a public right of way. The Town Council has more recently mentioned the part of the path going the other way. The planning officer and Highways Authority haven’t raised this as an issue with us. The Planning Officer was asked to resolve the footpath issue with the Town Council and has never done so. We have proposed a permissive path for the route path between the Railway Walk and Circular Walk, which we feel is sufficient.

"There are many routes across the University's land and campus which we permit the public to use, including the link in the circular path from Chandos Park to Chandos Road, none of which have any designation whatsoever. A 'permissive' status gives the path in question more protection than any of the other routes on campus.

"The University has always allowed free access to its paths and campuses and have every intention of that continuing in the future. We have indicated our intention for this to be the case also on the Station Road site by not only offering a permissive access, but more importantly spending by the University investing for the community to enhance the route across the site, including the reinstatement of the old Town Station platform, making it safer and more accessible for all users.

"University staff engage both formally and informally with community representatives and will continue to do so to address concerns whilst not unnecessarily restricting plans for the future development of the campus which are beneficial to the whole community."

The suggestion that the town council only recently mentioned the Railway Walk appears to be contradicted by the publicly available minutes to a Buckingham Town Council planning committee meeting held on 2 July last year – a meeting attended by estate bursar for the University, Colin Stocker.

District Councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “I personally informed Colin Stocker exactly what was being sought at a public meeting. It was plain, clear and obvious. To suggest that there is confusion is regrettable and difficult to believe.”

Buckingham Town Council provided the following statement: “This issue was first discussed by the Town Council on 10 April 2017, when concern was expressed that the platform link between the Railway Walk and the Scenic Walk, and the new path between this and Chandos Road, were to be Permissive paths only; Members asked that these be made Rights of Way to maintain public access at all times.

Full Council decided at the next meeting to obtain evidence of long-term use, to enable the town council to pursue the land becoming legally designated as a statutory right of way.

Since that time neither AVDC nor the university have informed the council that the position of the University has changed. Therefore the town council’s position remains unchanged...”

So through it all we can now confirm that despite the letter from the university published in our letter’s section last week, the original dispute over the Railway Walk footpath still exists.

If you wish to provide evidence of use of the Railway Walk footpath forms are available at the Tourist Information Centre at The Old Gaol or can be downloaded from the Buckingham Town Council website: www.buckingham-tc.gov.uk/we-need-you-help-to-establish-a-right-of-way

The completed form can be submitted by email to: deputytownclerk@Buckingham-tc.gov.uk

Alternatively, it can be printed out and posted to: Buckingham Town Council, The Buckingham Centre, Verney Close, Buckingham, MK18 1JP.

It can also be handed in at the Tourist Information Centre at the Old Gaol.