'This is vandalism of our countryside' say protesters
Protesters are trying to stop work on what is said to be a unique feature of their landscape which could be up to 700 years old.
Cheshire West and Chester Council argues the project is needed to improve the surface of Cuckoo Lane in Little Neston which runs from the Wirral Way on Chester High Road to Gorstons Lane.
Little Neston and Burton councillor Kay Loch (Con) insists the surface is often ‘muddy and impassable’.
She says the work, involving widening the bridleway and bringing on recycled road planings, will be a ‘substantial improvement’.
But local author Antony Annakin-Smith says he is ‘astonished’ the borough council is ‘presiding over the wanton vandalism of a unique part of our local landscape’.
“Cuckoo Lane, which includes a sunken road or holloway, is extremely attractive at any time of the year,” he feels.
A large part of its character derives from its narrowness and, in particular, from exposed sandstone which he fears is to be buried.
He is also concerned that ‘no detailed plan appears to have been put forward locally for consultation before the work started’.
Cllr Loch points out the scheme was presented to a meeting in Neston Town Hall in the summer and that no comments had been made at the meeting or since, until work began.
She explains there is no requirement for public consultation on maintenance work and archaeologists and ecologists were consulted and their comments taken into account.
At a protest meeting attended by scores of people on Saturday morning, Cllr Loch, who is public rights of way chairman at the borough council, handed out a statement which stated: “Whilst appreciating the historic character of Cuckoo Lane, we aim to ensure that our ancient routes are fit for purpose for current users.”
Activist Geoff Holland, a footpaths officer for Wirral Footpaths and Open Spaces Preservation Society, claims the council’s archaeologist felt the sandstone surfacing should not be covered over but ways should be found of preserving it ‘as an integral feature of this historic routeway’.
“It appears the archaeologist’s advice is being ignored completely and this historic, medieval trackway is being destroyed,” says Mr Holland.
Calling for work to stop immediately, Labour councillor for Little Neston and Burton Louise Gittins said: “This is vandalism of our countryside and there is huge public distress and anger.
“I've been given a number of different reasons why this is happening and none of them stack up.
“No-one will tell me how much this disastrous project is costing.”