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POLICE INVOLVED AS TURF WAR BREAKS OUT IN QUIET WORSLEY SUBURB
 

Star date: 17th July 2017

MASKED PHANTOM FENCE AVENGER HITS LEAFY WORSLEY

In a quiet suburb of Worsley, at the back of the White Horse pub, all hell has broken loose over a little footpath through a very small wood that a new owner had blocked off.

Here, there's been police involvement and petitions as residents fight to keep their public right of way open, plus a masked phantom fence avenger who has struck three times in the dead of night...

Full details here...


Worsley Footpath Salford Worsley Footpath Salford Worsley Footpath Salford
Worsley Footpath Salford Worsley Footpath Salford Worsley Footpath Salford
Worsley Footpath re-opened by the phantom fence avenger Worsley Footpath re-opened by the phantom fence avenger Worsley Footpath re-opened by the phantom fence avenger
Worsley Footpath Salford
click image to enlarge

It's an area that looks like no-one would say 'Boo' to a goose. It's quiet. It's so, so leafy. And it's at the centre of a turf war that's got residents up in arms and a mystery phantom fence avenger defending their right to walk unimpeded through a woody footpath that's about fifty yards long.

The footpath in question connects Haddon Road and Chatsworth Road in Worsley. Leading up to it on one side is a designated public footpath, and on the other is also a designated public footpath going to the White Horse pub...

...But this little footpath that cuts through a little triangle of woods is on private land, and has not been officially designated as a Public Right of Way despite it being well used by everyone from dog walkers, to cyclists to children going to school.

The new owner, who bought the huge house next to the little wood and footpath last December, wanted to close it down to the public, and signs have gone up on trees stating 'No public access or right of way' and 'Strictly no trespassing'.

"It's actually been a right of way for at least one hundred years and I've got plans from 1904 that show it as a footpath" says local resident Noel Gaskell "It was also a road until around 2004 when it was changed to a footpath by the previous owner.

"The current owner believes that he can close the footpath off now, even though it has been used as such for many, many years. And the residents, obviously, disagree" he adds.

First, the owner applied to put a six feet fence around the wooded triangle, including blocking of the footpath, but the residents objected and it was withdrawn. Then laurels, which can grow up to eight feet high, were planted around its perimeter...but the final straw came when a wire fence was installed around the woods, including across both footpath entrances...

The residents burst into action, getting petitions signed by over three hundred people who use the footpath, while letters were flying to Salford City Council to try and get it properly designated.

Meanwhile, a fence saboteur in a balaclava has taken the matter into their own hands, sneaking up in the middle of the night with wire cutters to re-open the footpath.

The first time the phantom fence avenger struck, the owner pulled the wire back across the entrance and secured it again. The second time, the same thing happened...so the third time the phantom not only cut the section but removed it completely. That was a few weeks ago and, ever since, the entrance has remained open with walkers happily 'trespassing' all day and night long.

It's brought a stiff reaction from Greater Manchester Police, with notices now pinned up asking for information about 'crime', probably referring to the phantom's deeds, warning that "This behaviour is totally unacceptable and must cease immediately...Offenders identified will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly..."

Amongst the comments on emails the campaign has received is one from a genteel Salford Health walker, who enclosed photos of around two dozen people in her group standing by the blocked off footpath...

"I took this photo on the footpath as evidence for your campaign that it is well used by both groups and individuals" she wrote "GMP were there...we thought they were waiting to arrest us if we tried to trespass!"

Local resident, Steve Birchall, who has been collecting petition signatures, says he's been buoyed by the response... "We were surprised how shocked people were. A lot of people from Monton, Boothstown and Worsley have used this as a footpath or cycle path for years. We don't know the person who has cut the wire, and it's certainly none of the neighbours that we know of..."

Meanwhile, with the direct action over for the time being, the residents are concentrating on getting Salford Council to re-designate the footpath as a definitive Public Right of Way, or PROW, and are going through the procedure during which, apparently, evidence has to be shown that it has been used as such for twenty years...

"On that basis we've actually got people who have been using it for 88 years" says Noel, adding that the Council is supportive and wants to get it resolved as soon as possible.

...And the person who has used the path for that length of time has also written a supporting email... "I have personally used that path for almost 88 years, albeit initially in a pram en route to Ellesmere Park, and my late uncle and his parents used it long before that" she states "It is regarded as a continuation of the path which runs through from beside the White Horse to Monton, through the golf links.

"The wooded, wild flowered triangle he [the owner] seeks to conceal from view has always been a visual asset to residents and all who passed by, including my parents-in-law who lived opposite" she adds "There has never been a problem with it before..."

There was one previous owner, now a Tory councillor, who, in 2004, made an application to close the footpath off but it was refused by the Council which cited it as a 'public footpath'...

"We'd like to know when it did not become a public footpath" says Noel, whose campaign now looks set to end in victory, without the need for another dead of night appearance by the phantom fence avenger.

When the Salford Star knocked on the door of the owner of the house and woods asking for a comment, we were told that there was no problem with the public using it as a footpath...

A very strange comment, considering the footpath was blocked off with wire fencing three times. Maybe the fence avenger is just too much to cope with in this most pleasant part of Salford...



Main photo shows Steve Birchall and Noel Gaskell


Slurp wrote
at 12:17:37 on 26 July 2017
#Steve 'and always has been in Worsley'- that's a complete load of rubbish. I've got old OS maps showing this area clearly within Swinton's old boundaries. And it's Broadoak , one word, not Broad Oak . I should know - i went there. Quite obviously you didn't. And i love the irony of a disputed right of way when people all around it seemed to have moved themselves into a different town. Wouldn't be down to enhancing the value of one's property would it?

Steve wrote
at 10:33:39 on 23 July 2017
Slurp - get a map out. Yes, whilst the White Horse and Broad Oak Primary School are in Swinton, the area containging the footpath / Chatsworth Road / Haddon Road is in Worsley and always has been in Worsley.

Arj wrote
at 15:56:47 on 20 July 2017
@Andy Burnley - he owns his own property and the triangle not 'Haddon Road inbetween' the triangle and his land. If you read the article Noel clearly states "It's actually been a right of way for at least one hundred years and I've got plans from 1904 that show it as a footpath, It was also a road until around 2004 when it was changed to a footpath by the previous owner." Having lived in Worsley and Swinton since 1999 I can confirm it was a fully operational road pre 2004. He can LEGALLY fence off his own land if he likes but he can't fence off the road inbetween his two plots of land. And it is not just the fence that is the problem he's physically blocked off parts of Haddon Road with bollards and large rocks.

Paul Sharples wrote
at 12:23:00 on 19 July 2017
Why do people move into an area and the want things changed to suit them. It has been a public footpath it should stay a public footpath. Let's hope the owner sees sense and does not waste his money on a legal battle.

akita wrote
at 06:32:42 on 19 July 2017
How ridiculous, just leave the path as it was, it is a complete waste of council and police time and I am surprised the police have the resources to deal with this petty nonsense when they have-not the time to fight real crimes in salford. The owner of this property sounds like a right donut

Elaine Marchment wrote
at 17:10:35 on 18 July 2017
I have lived in this area (Swinton/Worsley I'm not being pedantic) for 58 years. I commented on the signs/parking/fencing only recently saying to my husband "surely they can't do this" Well I hope a PROW is officially recognised very soon. My earliest memory as a right of way was as a child. In the holidays we caught the bus from Boothstown, got off at the White Horse, made our way to the path through the golf club to get to my grandparents in Patricroft. Asked my 82 year old mum and she says it has always been accessible. Newcomers should always be welcomed but why some choose to antagonise their neighbours is beyond me. Good luck and hopefully common sense prevails.

Slurp wrote
at 14:00:39 on 18 July 2017
How can this be Worsley? Both the White Horse and Broadoak Primary are most irrefutably Swinton. If someone tells me having an M28 postcode makes it Worsley i'll laugh. It doesn't . Entire districts and towns have the post codes of other districts and towns yet the traditional boundaries as laid down by statute remain exactly the same.

Nick Handsforth wrote
at 10:31:49 on 18 July 2017
What an absolute waste of time and public resource. The 'owner' isn't going to make friends in Worsley quickly.

Andy Burnley wrote
at 09:08:05 on 18 July 2017
The "owner" of this land in question needs to check his title deeds and any drawings/maps included. He then needs to measure his property boundaries.. IF this path IS on his property,he can LEGALLY fence the area off. ANY trespass or damage caused to his fences is then a CRIMINAL matter, as long as he is on his stated borders..

Les Hughes wrote
at 04:46:19 on 18 July 2017
Well over fifty years ago, as a teenager, I rode and walked this path. In the intervening years I have pushed both my daughters along it in prams and pushchairs, and have pushed my granddaughter along too. On most occasions I have used the path, I have passed other walkers coming my way, or followed or been followed by others.

Mike Kelly wrote
at 20:38:52 on 17 July 2017
If the path has been used for at least 21 years unopposed it will have become a prescriptive right of way. The Council should know all about this process and they should also have a dedicated/ named Rights Of Way Officer. Lets hope the old excuse of "cuts" is not brought forward as a way of them trying to weasel out of their responsibility.

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