Victory for Snettisham after planning inspector rules path is a public right of way

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Villagers are celebrating after a planning inspector has ruled that a beach footpath is a public right of way ending a four-year battle.

Government planning inspector Peter Millman has now ruled that the disputed coastal path at Snettisham beach should now be added on to the definitive map, following a public inquiry in June.

The ruling settles a long running row over the path between Snettisham Parish Council and a number of beach property owners, who claimed it was private land and put up a series of signs stating there was no public access.

On Sunday, the result was celebrated by more than 100 walkers with two alpine horns.

Parish council chairman Eric Langford said: “It is a victory for the village, for visitors and local businesses.

“This is wonderful news. It has been four long years of hard work.

“I would like to thank Lillian and Roger Richards who gave up a large part of their lives to this along with the people who filled in evidence forms and sent letters of support.

“Thanks also goes to the people who gave evidence. I would also like to thank the chalet owners and members of the sailing club who gave evidence in support of the council’s case.”

The week-long inquiry was held in the Memorial Hall in June after landowners objected last year to a Norfolk County Council bid to add the path to the map after an application was lodged by villagers.

Land owners, walkers and visitors gave evidence during the inquiry.

The parish council has spent more than £8,000 during the public inquiry.

Mr Langford is now calling on the county council to make sure the “no public access” signs are taken down.

He said: “I am very disappointed about the lack of support and approach taken by the county council in the inquiry. This little parish council has been left to carry the can.

“Please take a responsible stance and ensure that these misleading signs are now removed.”

While the main battle has been won, the council will be heading to Lynn County Court on September 22 and 23 to object to property owners’ claims of owning land below the path and part of the beach.

A county council spokesman said: “We are still studying the full detail of the inspector’s ruling but we are delighted that the views of those people who asked the county council to establish the footpath as a public right of way (PROW) have been vindicated - and pleased that the report upholds the opinion that we also came to when we reviewed the evidence all those months ago.

“As soon as we are confident that there is no legal challenge to the inspector’s ruling we will take action to remove signs that conflict with its status as a public right of way – or indeed anything that obstructs the ability of people to use it – and installing new ones to reflect its status.

“We understand that people are frustrated that this issue has taken such a long time to resolve. But the process for establishing the legal status of a PROW is a lengthy one – not least to ensure that everyone’s views are fairly and properly considered – and this is the process that we have ensured has been followed throughout.”