Taking action on footpath behind Old Orchard
As some my remarks have been reported in today’s Harlow Star, I feel I should publish the full version, that were edited down for space reasons in the Star. My remarks went on to say:
Councillor Toal is making this issue a personal priority, and while we can’t just close a public thoroughfare, unlike the previous administration we will make sure that local concerns are taken into account.
If local residents do encounter anti-social behaviour, or evidence such as needles, they should report it to Contact Harlow (Tel: 01279 446655, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) who will respond, although as always, in an emergency the Police should be contacted on 999. This will also enable us to collate the evidence that would be needed should closing the public path be the right option
The key point here is that the council have not discounted closing the pathway, but as it is a right of way, we have to collate the evidence, consult with all residents and then, if appropriate, go through a formal legal procedure. I know that a number of residents in the local area have expressed a view that they wish to keep the pathway open, and when I visited yesterday with senior officers of the Council, it was clearly a busy, well used thoroughfare.
I would urge all residents, and users of the footpath to report specific incidents, so we may collate the evidence that would be needed to take any action. In the meantime we will continue to look at how the alleyway can be improved, are already investigating who are the responsible parties for areas of broken fencing, will continue with patrols and rapidly responding to any cleanup of graffiti, and of course if any drug paraphernalia is reported we will clean that up too
This administration is taking this seriously, are listening to local residents, and have been from the moment that this was brought to our attention. If residents can help us collate the relevant evidence, and closing the public footpath is the right course of action, then we will act. What we won’t do is make promises we can’t keep, to try to score points, and then ignore the problem for months.
Update: Last night, the leader of the Council, Mark Wilkinson accepted a petition from residents across Harlow to get the public pathway closed. There was some misinformation circulating that the Labour Group has tried to refuse to debate this. The simple fact is that the council officers applied rules introduced by the Conservative administration – crucially the lack of notice to schedule and adequately publicise a debate at full council. We have however happily agreed to hold a public meeting within the next couple of weeks, were we will have the police, the relevant council officers, ward councillors, and the relevant portfolio holders, and of course local residents. As soon as the date is known we will let residents know.