Future of Buckingham footpath remains unclear as University plans are approved

The saga over public access to a footpath that runs through the University of Buckingham continued last week after a planning application for extra student accommodation was approved.

The University are planning on building a new halls of residence on the corner of Station Road and Chandos Road which partly incorporates a footpath, known as the Railway Walk, that has been used since 1966.

The Railway Walk in Buckingham

The Railway Walk in Buckingham

While the University has pledged to retain public access via a 'permissive path', Buckingham Town Council (BTC) have insisted the thoroughfare be designated a public right-of-way in order to secure it long term.

As Mark Cole, Deputy Mayor of Buckingham and chairman of the town council's planning committee, said at the Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) planning meeting on 3 April:

“A landowner may withdraw a permissive path at any time.”

The issue is further complicated by the fact that an upgrade to the Railway Walk was commissioned as part of the 380-dwelling planning application in the Tingewick Triangle and without public access to the footpath this sustainability aspect of the new housing development will be lost.

Plans for University student halls including the Railway footpath

Plans for University student halls including the Railway footpath

Councillor Cole said:

“The town council is endeavouring to encourage walking and cycling for school children to reduce the number of car journey's made by parents to take their children to school and without a right-of-way suitable through the former station that ambition is lost.”

In his submission to the planning committee last week, David Green from Delta Planning, representing the University of Buckingham, made great play of the University's positive contribution to the town, saying:

“The University's plans to invest in Buckingham are clear and very strong.”

He continued:

“As with any landowner you want to maintain the flexibility of the route around the site,” adding, “to require it to be public is not necessary or reasonable.”

Councillor Llew Monger appeared far from convinced, saying:

“It seems to me that the University wants us to believe that they are supporters of community but they're being extremely difficult about this.”

Indeed a curious aspect to this is the fact that while at times the University has claimed the right-of-way issue must be dealt with outside of the planning application, another permissive path that runs through the University is being designated a public right-of-way along with the student accommodation plans.

Councillor Robin Stuchbury noted:

“They know how to do it because they have granted a right-of-way from Lenborough Road across to Chandos Road - what's so different?”

In order to attempt to secure the contentious footpath as a public right-of-way, the Town Council must now seek to establish 'a right-of-way by usage.'

To achieve this, BTC will need to show that the path has been in constant, continuous use for at least 20 years. This evidence, provided by the public, can then be presented to the rights of way committee at Bucks County Council for consideration.

Evidence forms are available at the Tourist Information Centre at The Old Gaol or can be downloaded from the Buckingham Town Council website.