Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Residents of private road ‘don’t want to ban visitors’

RESIDENTS of a private road in Wargrave are unhappy that notices have been put up telling visitors to keep out, it has been claimed.

One woman who has lived in Loddon Drive for more than 30 years says the area has lost its community spirit and has become a “battleground”.

The two red and white signs warn of a £5,000 fine for trespassers, including walkers, joggers and cyclists. They were erected at the end of the road owned by John Bushnell Ltd, near the railway bridge.

Company director David Bushnell said this was done in response to a sharp rise in visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, littering and antisocial behaviour.

But 83-year-old resident Patsy Roynon says she and many of her neighbours didn’t want the notices.

Mrs Rosyon came to live in Loddon Drive with her husband Gavin in 1987 but is now moving away following his death three years ago.

She said: “We always tried our hardest to share our incredible good fortune in living here.

“We always tried to share our garden. We opened it to the Wargrave Festival and we used to have events here for the church.

“I ran the brownie pack for about 12 years and I used to have them here and the British Legion committee met in our dining room for many years.

“The worst thing about what’s happening now is that, when so many people are desperate about lockdown and frightened, they choose to put up those notices. What are they so afraid of?

“The result is that the lovely community that we joined 30 years ago has turned into a frightened, militant and aggressive place to live.

“It is not a nice feeling down here anymore.

“What does it matter that there are people walking up and down? The majority of them are smiley, courteous and grateful to be here.”

Loddon Drive is divided into three sections, one of which is owned by John Bushnell Ltd and another by Loddon Residents’ Asssociation. The ownership of the third section, where Mrs Roynon lives, is unknown.

She said residents were not asked about the notices before they went up.

Mrs Roynon said: “The residents do not want to keep people out. David is much encouraged and supported by a very noisy minority, most of whom have only lived here for the last six to eight years.

“In our little group, about half of us are... to call it unhappy is the understatement of the year. Our lives here are being wrecked by the battleground that Loddon Drive has become.”

She said she accepted that visitor numbers had increased over the past year and that some cyclists went too fast along the road but she did not believe visitors should be banned altogether.

Mrs Roynon said: “David also makes a huge issue of the litter and there is litter but we have always cleared it up.

“My husband — even when he was on a Zimmer frame — went out with his litter-picker. Most of us just clear our own sections and that is just an unwritten rule.

“There are, sadly, ways in which I will be glad to leave Loddon Drive and I never thought I would say that. The residents do not want to keep people out.

“I grew up in Hampshire where there were a lot of roads that were designated as private but it didn’t mean everybody had to keep out.

“We are responsible for our own lives and mistakes and if something goes wrong you work out how to solve it. You ask people for help and you offer your help in return — that is how it should be and used to be. Nowadays it is a series of locked gates and pools of isolation.

“The tiny minority would like to install electric gates but the tolerant and reasonable majority don’t want that.”

In 2013, the residents won a case against the Ramblers Association at the High Court, which ruled Loddon Drive was a private road.

Last summer, a farmer who lives at the opposite end from the notices put up his own signs following some vandalism and rubbish being left on his land and by the river.

In June, residents called the police after about 100 teenagers were caught trespassing on the farmer’s fields in order to go swimming in the River Loddon.

Mr Bushnell declined to comment.

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