Parish councillors are calling for a new footpath to be created amid fears that ‘informal’ routes will be permanently cut off after 25 years.

The land at Grange Farm in Hazlemere, which is owned by Buckinghamshire Council, was recently taken over by a new tenant who is planning to fence the area off for livestock grazing.

However, parish councillors in Hazlemere have expressed concern that the new fencing will “block pedestrian access” via ‘informal’ footpaths..

In a letter addressed to Buckinghamshire Councillor John Chilver, Caroline Olive, chair of the parish council, also said the fences may even be at risk of damage due to “feelings running high” in the village about the walkways being cut off.

The parish council believes that the solution to the issue lies in creating a “permissive footpath” from Hazlemere Recreation Ground to run along the eastern edge of Grange Farm and join with an existing path next to Cedar Park School.

Cllr Olive highlighted the extent of pedestrian access that would be blocked by the new fencing – with residents unable to walk from the Recreation Ground to Widmer Fields or North Hazlemere, except by walking through the village’s centre.

She added: “Historically, the Grange Farm fields have been covered by a network of informal footpaths from the north to the south of the parish. The existing long-standing public footpaths, though valued, were designated before development to the north of Hazlemere, hence the development of informal paths to avoid a lengthy detour.”

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The letter disclosed that the footpaths at risk of being obstructed had been trodden by locals for “at least” 25 years.

Aside from solving a contentious issue, Cllr Olive said the new path would have a raft of additional benefits, providing a safe off-road link between south and north Hazlemere, creating a “sustainable walking route” into High Wycombe and easing the pressure on open areas following the planned development of nearly 400 new homes at Terriers Farm in Kingshill Road.

Permissive paths are different from footpaths and bridleways because they are privately owned – with the owner making the route available to the public at their own discretion.

Buckinghamshire Council’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2020 to 2030 states a preference that new paths be created “as part of the public rights of way network” but acknowledges that “if this is not possible”, they may enter into permissive path agreements.

In this instance, designation would also avoid “lengthy and contentious” planning application processes for public footpath approval in areas that have been “used for well over 25 years”, according to Cllr Olive.

Buckinghamshire Council has been contacted for comment.