Walkers’ experiences around Appleton Thorn can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ at the best of times, often due to the surprising presence of a pavement along a country lane or the absence of pavement along a busy road used by heavy lorries.
A couple of years ago the pavement, along the side of Grappenhall Lane, heading east out of the village centre, was extended along to the blocked off ‘cut-through’ lane, before the junction with Barleycastle Lane.
It was said at the time to be so that workers at the distribution parks on Barleycastle Lane could walk safely from the bus stops in the village. The cut-through, which has long been blockaded at both ends to prevent vehicular traffic, allowed pedestrian traffic down to a pavement that runs along Barleycastle Lane to the distribution parks. A safe pedestrian journey from Appleton Thorn village to the work areas.
Not so now!
Since the summer, the lane has been filled with spoil, identified by a local dog-walking resident as ‘road planings’ – the old tarmac surface taken up before a new surface is laid.
The spoil extends across the width of the lane, along almost its entire length and to a height of some 2 metres in places. The steep slope at both ends and along both sides will deter less able walkers, with the only alternative available being to walk along the side of the busy Barleycastle Lane, taking your chances with the fast and heavy articulated lorries that thunder along this narrow road.
It looked like an organised dumping of material rather than opportunistic fly tipping. Surely the Council knew something?
Was it a case of the plans of one part of the council being rendered useless by the actions of another department?
Cllr Judith Wheeler, Warrington local councillor for Appleton and Appleton Parish Councillor, set out to investigate.
It was also not clear whether or not the lane is a Public Right of Way (PROW). If it is then a whole load of other questions needed to be answered.
Cllr Wheeler made some enquiries at the Council and established that the road was not considered a PROW, but that “it’s a road that has now been taken out of use (stopped for public use).”
It was further explained that “the area is being used by the Council for storing materials for road surfacing schemes in the area.”
At a subsequent meeting on this and other PROW issues, Cllr Wheeler established that the Council is responsible for blocking the lane but also that the lane is indeed a Public Right of Way. It has a Traffic Regulation Order on it to prevent road traffic, but it should still have access for cyclists, walkers etc.
The Highways Dept. has been asked to open the road up again!
It is not yet clear how long this may take as it appears that the material was dumped here as an expediency when plant broke down on a couple of local resurfacing jobs.
The responsible Council Officer at Warrington Borough Council wrote to Cllr Wheeler to explain:
“I can confirm that the material stockpiled on the road at the moment is material arising from planing operations on two of my schemes. The normal process is that when roads are being planed (surfacing removed) ready for resurfacing, the material is removed from site immediately. Unfortunately, on a couple of recent schemes, it was not possible to remove all of the materials due to plant break down and I needed to store the material quickly. Alternatively, I would have needed to instruct the sites to be shut down resulting in significant cost. This is not rubble and is a material which will be removed and recycled for future use.
I am looking to have the material removed as soon as possible but I am trying to fund this process by coordinating its removal with another scheme. I will do my best to have this removed as soon as I can but this may take a little while.”
In the meantime, local walkers will have to risk either traffic on Barleycastle Lane or turning an ankle on the spoil heaps along this Public Right of Way.
Liability for any injury sustained in navigating either of these routes may yet outweigh the costs of proper removal of material from the resurfacing sites. Something that should surely have been provided for in the contract for the work.
Any update on the situation will be published here.