LAWYERS acting in a dispute over an alleged right of way at Croft, near Darlington, expect to see “the whites of the eyes” of witnesses who say a footpath existed.

A public meeting about the dispute, due to be held today, has been postponed.

However, Croft Workingmen’s Club said it would continue to fight the application for a designated public right way between Croft Road Bridge and the railway viaduct.

Some people in the village say the path, which runs through the club grounds, has been in use for decades and its loss would be detrimental to the village.

The club disputes this, and a fence with gates and barbed wire has been installed.

Residents must prove continuous public use of the path over more than 20 years to have it designated a right way.

More than 100 evidence forms have been submitted saying it has been in use since the early 20th century.

Last night, Simon Catterall, a partner at Jackson’s Law Firm, which is acting for the club, said: “The club’s position is a public right of way has never existed over their land between Croft Road Bridge and the Railway Viaduct.

“The vast majority of people who have lived in the area for any length of time are well aware it is private property and have distanced themselves from this initiative.

“The club are uneasy that many of the statements filed in support of this application appear to contain similar handwriting, and we will expect to see the whites of the eyes of these witnesses if the matter proceeds to a full hearing.”

Last November, 167 protesters walked the path to demonstrate against its closure. At the time, a spokesman for the campaign group, Simon Sobrero, said: “Villagers have used this path as if it was a right of way for decades. However, we run the risk of losing this right if we don’t act now. The Ramblers Association has also backed the campaign.”

No-one from the campaign group was available for comment as the D&S went to press.