Wednesday, 19 January 2022
PUBLIC footpaths across Caversham Park could be reinstated.
The former BBC estate, which has been sold to a developer and is set to become a care home and new housing, is currently off limits to the public.
But a rights of way consultation carried out by Reading Borough Council has identified historic paths on the 93-acre estate, off Peppard Road, which were used regularly.
Eight respondents said they remembered the paths. Two also provided historical maps and referred to “lost paths” maps used by Ramblers’ groups.
Tony Page, the council’s lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “Part of the consultation was about identifying any historic rights of way that are not currently included in the network list.
“A topical example of this is the land on the Caversham Park estate.
“We know there is a great deal of local support for providing public access to this beautiful parkland. Several people responded saying they believed this site has historic paths that need to be reinstated and have also provided some information relating to these claims.”
More than 200 individuals and organisations responded to the two-month consultation in June and July, including the Caversham and District Residents’ Association, the Ramblers and the Canal & River Trust.
The council says it wants to encourage people to cycle and walk more and to protect well-used areas and identify new ones that could be of benefit.
It found that routes along the River Thames and the Kennet and Avon Canal leading into Reading town centre were the most used. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents said they had used the footpath network more since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year and 80 per cent said they would continue to do so.
But 53 per cent of respondents had a reason not to use the network, including the condition of the paths, antisocial behaviour and a lack of information on the routes.
Councillor Page said: “I’m delighted that more than 30 people described other opportunities for creating routes based on regular usage and provided some very useful ideas for extending the network.
“We can now work towards preparing our improvement plan, which will include reviewing opportunities to reinstate the historical paths on the Caversham site as well as reviewing suggestions on new and historic paths with the aim to claim or reinstate them.
“There is much work to be done. We have until 2026 to include historic footpaths in our network after which time they will be lost.”
The council will now develop an action plan for improving the network.
In July, Beechcroft Developments had a bid for Caversham Park accepted by the BBC and then unveiled a £35 million plan to turn the Grade II listed manor house into a care home and 60 assisted living flats.
It also wants to build about 80 new homes with 50 open-market properties on the east side of the building and another 30 affordable units to the west.
There would also be croquet lawns, tennis courts and bowling greens in front of the building and private gardens for residents as well as a walking trail along the perimeter of the site.
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