A footpath that residents say attracts antisocial behaviour including drinking, fly-tipping and drug taking is one step closer to being closed after the majority of councillors agreed to take the plan forward – despite concerns that it will push the problem elsewhere.

Councillors on the High Wycombe town committee voted in favour of supporting the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on the footpath that connects Desborough Avenue and West End Street on Tuesday evening – despite opposition from walking societies.

If given the go ahead at full council, gates costing around £3,500 will be installed at each end, with residents being given codes to access their back gardens.

Ahead of the meeting, the Open Spaces Society and the Buckinghamshire Ramblers said they were “dismayed” that the controversial order was recommended for approval, saying the path was “valuable” to the town.

However, Cllr Lesley Clarke, who represents the Abbey ward, said residents who live nearby need the alleyway to be closed so they can “get some respite”.

She said: “The residents near this footpath have suffered graffiti, hate crime, you name it, they have had everything. We had a pregnant woman, her husband wasn’t there, and someone chucked a bottle over the fence and it nearly broke the window of her sitting room. It is not acceptable behaviour.

“There is prostitution, there are people drinking there until 3am or 4am and the police will not do anything. Yes, it’s £3,500 but if it’s going to allow these residents to sleep in their bed at night without having to phone the police, I think it’s money well spent.”

Cllr Julia Wassell opposed the closure, saying the money would be better spent on painting over the graffiti and starting a “we love our alleyways” campaign.

She said: “We need to reclaim our alleyways. Let’s publish a map of them and market it so we can all enjoy them and let’s stamp out this stupid and ridiculous antisocial behaviour that every ward in Wycombe is enduring.

“We have a fantastic network and if we can’t take pride in them then we should be ashamed of ourselves. Backed up with money, police and rubbish bins, we won’t let thugs rule in High Wycombe.

“I'm willing to help any resident to spruce up our alleyways. I'm completing opposed to gating off any alleyways.”

Cllr Matt Knight added that closing the path could encourage people to hang around elsewhere instead.

He said: “The problem isn’t the alleyway at all, it is antisocial behaviour. With cuts to police, health and support services, it is obvious we’re going to get an increase in street drinking, an increase in people who really need support on the streets.

“We should be spending £3,500 on making sure that we get these people in the right places so they're not in alleyways. It sets a dangerous precedent if we start shutting them.”

If the PSPO is given the green light, it can only be put in place for three years and the council will need to hold another consultation process to extend it.