Dispute over access to footpath through University of Buckingham hits stalemate

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Buckingham Town Council are in dispute with the University of Buckingham over a footpath that runs through a proposed new development.

The university is planning on building a new accommodation block for their students on the corner of Station Road and Chandos Road which incorporates a footpath that has been used for around three quarters of a century.

Buckingham Town Council are objecting to the planning proposal out of concern that the public thoroughfare will be lost, and are requesting assurances to the contrary.

At the town council’s planning committee meeting on 2 July, councillor Paul Hirons said: “We want a cast iron assurance that when you’ve finished we will have a nice new building for you and a public right of way.”

In response the university has offered a ‘permissive path’ but this is not a permanent or unretractable agreement – the university could effectively block access at any time.

Councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “The public interest is not served with a permissive right of way because the University can just build over it in the future.”

Only a formal ‘public right of way’ guarantees that the current route remains open.

The university has said they are happy to go into discussions about a formal right of way after building is complete but claim that doing so during the planning stage causes unreasonable delays.

Colin Stocker, estate bursar for the university, said at the meeting: “We are trying as ever to assist the town into giving them what they want, we just don’t feel we should be forced into a position where we have to have a condition of planning for that as a right of way across our site.”

Councillor Lisa O’Donaghue replied: “It’s beyond many of us why you’re opposing this, why you don’t just say yes to the public right of way and let it go through – then you get your building.”

As was acknowledged by both parties at the meeting, the situation is effectively at a stalemate.