THE owners of Hoburne Naish holiday park at Barton have been criticised over plans to stop public access to a path which local residents use to reach the beach.
For over 50 years people have been able to freely walk through entrances at either end of the clifftop site.
But now notices have gone up on gates at either end of the pathway through the park saying that in the future they will be closed to non-residents.
Hoburne Naish said the move was part of the official designation of a coastal path, which goes around the park, and to improve security.
The change disappointed Barton resident Alan Shackel, who said: “I realise the land belongs to them but people have been walking that way for over 50 years – certainly my parents have for over 30.
“It is just very sad as it is such a lovely walk. But there is a more serious issue as to get to the beach that you could by going that way, now you will have to walk along the A337 which is very narrow and has fast flowing traffic, and down through the Chewton Bunny.
“You will have to negotiate a sharp bend and a narrow humpback bridge. The footpath is single-file in some places so is not wide enough for prams and pushchairs and represents a danger to dogs on leads and to children.”
The speed on the A337 is currently restricted to 40mph but he said drivers often break the limit.
Mr Shackel added: “I think having to go that way is going to be dangerous, especially for families with parents pushing buggies.”
The signs state: “Advance notice. This gate is for the residents of Hoburne Naish and will shortly be locked for non-resident use.”
Mr Shackel said: “I have heard that it might be because of dog walkers letting their animals off the leash and not clearing up after them. But I have a dog which I don’t let off its lead when we walk that way and I have never seen many other dogs off them either.
“Also people living at Naish have dogs too, so how do you know if the problem, if there is a problem, is actually caused by non-residents?”
He added: “People who have contacted Hampshire County Council over it have been told that there is no public right away over the site, so Hoburne can do what they want.”
Angela Jackson, a member of New Milton Residents’ Association, said she and her husband Graham were “very sad” about the prospect of the gates being locked.
She said: “We absolutely love walking along the cliff here, it is the most beautiful view. I realise it is their land and they can do with it what they want but I think it is a very unneighbourly thing to do.
“It would be nice if they kept it open, I haven’t seen any real problems with people using the path so I don’t know why they have taken this decision. Everyone I see uses it respectfully and mindful of the fact that people do live on the park.”
Mr Jackson added: “They are within their rights but I think it is a very unfortunate that they have taken this step.
“They haven’t even given an explanation as to why they are doing it. What concerns me most is increasing the footfall along the A337 with people trying to reach that part of the beach which is a popular spot.
“It is a dangerous road for families and everyone really to negotiate and I think we could eventually see a very bad accident occurring there.”
Mrs Jackson said she has taken up the issue of the locked gates with New Milton Residents’ Association with the suggestion that they should approach the town council about it.
She said: “It would be nice if Hoburne Naish could change their minds about this.”
A petition to reduce the speed limit on A337 at the border of Dorset and Hampshire has been launched this week in light of the gates being closed in the future.
There are also calls by worried locals for a section of pavement along the A337 to be widened due to the difficulty of navigating for those walking dogs or with children.
Launching the petition on the 38 Degrees webpage, campaigners said: “This is an accident/fatality waiting to happen. The speed limit is 40mph which is often exceeded.
“Several times cars have broken through the fenced border of Chewton Glen. The pathway is extremely narrow at the bend approaching Hoburne site. There is no other way to walk across this boundary from Barton on Sea to Highcliffe.
“This is now a particular problem as Hoburne is/has closed off the cliff walk access to members of the public.”
A spokesperson for Hoburne Naish told the A&T that the decision to close the gates to non-residents had been taken after Natural England recently announced plans to officially designate a coastal path which takes people around the site along the A337 and through Chewton Bunny.
The route is part of proposed access scheme around the coast of England – but businesses and residents with land along the trail are excluded from it.
Hoburne Naish said in a statement: “Following lengthy discussions, Natural England has recently published a proposal to designate a coastal path going around the edge of Hoburne Naish holiday park and through Chewton Bunny.
“No part of the anticipated path crosses Hoburne Naish, so Hoburne has proposed to install coded locks on the existing pedestrian gates at the eastern end of the park and at the top of the path leading from Hoburne Naish to the beach below.
“The path which Hoburne has proposed to secure with coded locks sits in its entirety within the private grounds of Hoburne Naish holiday park and is not a designated public right of way.
“The improved park security will benefit the company’s staff and customers, which include holidaymakers, residents and holiday homeowners, as well as many families living near to Hoburne Naish who participate in their local membership scheme.
“These proposed additional measures will enable the company to continue to offer improved peace of mind, along with the high levels of comfort and cleanliness which all of Hoburne’s guests and customers deserve.”