Solution to long-running wrangle over right of way in Darlington (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Solution to long-running wrangle over right of way in Darlington
A CONTROVERSIAL footpath has been officially declared a public right of way, despite a shopowner claiming the route has caused her a life of misery.
The walkway, which goes through an archway from Grange Road to Beaumont Street West, in Darlington, had been the subject of a longrunning wrangle between charity Age UK Darlington and bridalwear shop proprietor Margaret Dobinson.
Mrs Dobinson owns the land which the path runs along and claimed the route was a catalyst for anti-social behaviour, putting her business under serious threat.
However, the walkway was yesterday recognised as a public thoroughfare by Darlington Borough Council’s Rights of Way panel after the charity argued its 300 volunteers, and many other Darlington residents, had used it since 1955.
It also alleged that people had been accosted by Mrs Dobinson when using the route.
Gillian Peel, chief executive of Age UK Darlington, said: “A lot of people have problems getting through the archway and it is distressing for them.
“If it was enclosed, it would be to the detriment of our business and people in Darlington.
We have 120 people attending our day classes and cafe, and the anger towards them using the route has been upsetting.”
However, Mrs Dobinson, who bought the property from Darlington Borough Council, said that the deal rendered any public right of way defunct.
She said: “I love that shop but nobody seems to care what I am having to put up with.
“Someone tried to set fire to it, and on another occasion, the police were there holding a man against the wall, but I get told nothing.
“There has been filth in the alley for years.”
Dave Liddle, representing Mrs Dobinson, also argued that previously-erected chains, which were later taken down, were a clear signal that it was not for the public, adding that Age UK Darlington’s evidence was flawed and a result of confusion over dates when the route was a public right of way.
However, speaking after the verdict, Mrs Peel said: “We are delighted with the result. It is a good decision for the people of Darlington.”