Public boardwalk may have to close, warn residents facing £50,000 repair bill

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Ducking Stool Walk boardwalk
Priory Mews residents say it is unfair they have to maintain the Ducking Stool Walk boardwalk costing thousands of pounds

PEOPLE living on a small estate in the middle of Christchurch have warned they may be forced to close a public walkway unless BCP Council takes on its ownership.

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The 17 residents of the Priory Mews estate are responsible for maintaining the Ducking Stool Walk boardwalk but say it is “unfair” they are burdened with costs of thousands of pounds each, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Hundreds of people have signed their petition calling on the council to provide financial support but the authority has said the public footpath is outside of its control.

The boardwalk, off Castle Street, became the responsibility of the residents shortly after its construction in late 2008.

However, they say they have paid more than £15,000 maintaining it and that it now requires substantial renovations estimated at £50,000.

“This is an unfair and untenable position for us,” said Maureen King who has been leading the campaign.

“Most people we speak to think the council owns the boardwalk but it is our responsibility, despite almost all of its use being from the general public.

“The material approved by Christchurch council for its construction has proven to be totally unsuitable and needs replacing much sooner than we were originally told.”

They have warned that the cost of the soon-to-be-required works could force them to close the route without support from BCP Council.

As part of the original planning permission for the development, its residents are required to maintain the boardwalk “without restriction and in perpetuity”.

But they say the arrangement is “totally untenable”.

Mrs King added that they may be forced to close the entire route due to health and safety concerns.

As well as collecting hundreds of signatures for their petition, they have also written to councillors and local MP Sir Christopher Chope all of whom, they say, back their cause for the council to take over responsibility for the boardwalk.

However, BCP Council director for infrastructure, Julian McLaughlin, said: “Whilst we have sympathy for residents who may not have realised the extent of their financial commitment, it is outside the control of the council.”

Residents have vowed to continue their campaign until the council provides “at least some funding”.

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