A ding-dong battle is raging between walkers and golfers over a London footpath.
People using a public right of way across Northwick Park golf course have been told they should ring a bell to warn players they are approaching. Campaigners say lives are being put at risk.
For whom the bell tolls: walkers are advised to ring the bell before crossing the course
The local authority, Brent Council, wants to divert the footpath for the convenience of the club, which leases the course from the council. Now, objectors have forced a public inquiry into the plans.
The Open Spaces Society (OSS), which campaigns to preserve greens – village ones, that is, rather than manicured putting greens – is leading the fight to stop the diversion.
The society’s general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “This footpath is a public highway, just like any road, and people have the right to walk it.
“But the council is trying to move it because Playgolf [the course operator], which leases the golf course from the council, has made the existing route unusable.
“Not only has Playgolf blocked the path with fencing, but it has placed the driving range across it so that walkers literally risk their lives when using the path. There is a notice warning the public that they enter the driving range at their own risk.
“Yet it is illegal to block a public footpath.”
Northwick Park describes itself as ‘London’s premier nine-hole golf course’. Unlimited use of the course costs £59 per month.
Ms Ashbrook continued: “Brent Council should require Playgolf to resite the driving range and remove the fencing. Instead, it wants to move the path to an inferior route. However, there are serious and detailed objections to this so there will be a public inquiry.
“The council tried this before with a similar footpath diversion, and a public inquiry was held in 2006, but its proposals were thrown out by the inspector, primarily on grounds of public safety.
“The council claims already to have spent £25,000 on this path, with no result, and estimates that its latest plans to move it will cost another £10,000 in legal fees.
“What a waste of public money, when it could take legal action against Playgolf to require it to put the path right, and recoup its costs.
“The council and Playgolf have even had the audacity to request walkers entering the golf course on the footpath to ring a bell to warn golfers that they want to cross the course. It should be the golfers who ring the bell – the walkers have the right of way, not the golfers.
“We shall fight this path diversion, and continue to press for the existing way to be reinstated so that the public may walk it safely.”
Objectors have until next Friday, 14 March, to make submissions to Paul Williams, London Borough of Brent Transportation Service, Brent House, 349-357 High Road, Wembley HA9 6BZ.