Monday, 16 May 2022

Walkers no longer welcome

Walkers no longer welcome

WALKERS who have been banned from using the grounds of the former Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed have accused the new owners of being “petty”.

They had been allowed by the charity to use the grounds of Joyce Grove but this arrangement came to an end when Beechcroft Developments bought the site earlier this year.

The developer has since blocked the main access point but walkers are still using informal entrances.

Lou Campbell, 79, from Crocker End, said people should still be allowed to walk in the grounds as they had no intention of going near the former hospice, building, which is Grade II listed.

Ms Campbell said: “While there has never been a footpath across the grounds, I have been walking there for 50 years. I would walk with my dog about twice a week and we had been allowed to do that.

“Now they have blocked off the entrances and it just seems awfully petty. We used to be able to do a circle.

“Nobody wants to go near the house and the work they are doing there is behind a large fence so I don’t understand why they have done this. There are two people I know who have been shouted at. It also means that I can’t get to the village from my home easily and I have to go along the main road, which is busy.

“Yes, they have bought it for a vast sum of money and there was never a footpath there but we have always been allowed to walk there.

“There are others that use it and there are places you can get through, for example, by the church there isn’t a sign saying that it is private property.”

Sue Ryder put Joyce Grove on the market last summer after South Oxfordshire District Council awarded planning permission to convert it into 20 flats.

James Leach, chairman of Nettlebed Parish Council, said that one of the conditions of the permission was to introduce a footpath but it would be some time before this was done.

He said: “South Oxfordshire District Council granted planning permission on the basis that a new footpath would be created that would run parallel with the High Street and pop out near the Cheese Shed.

“However, the condition only needs to be met by the time the first occupants are in the new development.

“I am a dog walker myself and used to use that route regularly but I quite understand why the developers would want to close it as there would no doubt be heavy plant on site.

“Unfortunately, I and other members of the community have to wait for the project to be completed as that was the timescale agreed. It is not good news as it was a beautiful walk and who knows how long that development will take? Perhaps two or three years. Yes, it’s disappointing we can’t use it but I understand why we can’t.”

Chris Thompson, managing director of Beechcroft, confirmed there are no public rights of way across the land, only private rights of way for adjoining cottages and Nettlebed Community School.

He said: “Following the change of ownership earlier this year, Beechcroft has granted limited access to the grounds when approached for permission and there is a security presence on site to ensure that there is no unauthorised access to the buildings or the land.

“Anyone found to be trespassing will be politely asked to leave. Indeed, given that the site will soon become a construction site, it will be safer if those who may have become accustomed to walking their dogs find alternative walks on public footpaths, of which there are plenty in and around Nettlebed.”

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