Persistent path protesters poured out of an extraordinary town council meeting having achieved their aim of consultation not confrontation.
Cuckoo Lane campaigners in Little Neston had heard from Cheshire West and Chester Council localities officer Sarah Clein that the council would suspend work on resurfacing the bridleway with 500 tonnes of recycled road surface at a cost of £30,000 to allow consultation with interested parties.
Objectors hailed a victory for people power as work to the path, described as the prettiest on the Wirral dating back possibly 700 years, had led to ‘enormous local anger’.
A website had attracted over 300 comments they pointed out, almost 250 people had joined a Facebook group and 100 residents had turned out to a Saturday morning meeting on the route.
More than 200 people packed Neston Town Hall for the town council’s extraordinary meeting on Friday called by mayor Cllr Tom Marlow.
Forty eight hours earlier impassioned pleas had been made to the borough council’s Executive, which is attended by localities chief Cllr Lynn Riley (Con, Frodsham) for work to be halted to enable talks.
On Monday, Cllr Riley issued a statement on behalf of the borough council which insists it has a duty to maintain public rights of way in a safe condition for all users.
“Work on Cuckoo Lane will not continue whilst discussions take place with Neston Town Council and residents regarding the bridleway scheme,” said Cllr Riley.
“Whilst we did not need to formally consult on the work, it is clear that it has generated a great deal of interest and we want to hear views as to how the work should be taken forward.”
She emphasised: “We are also a listening council and want to learn from this experience.
“Four of our senior officers attended the Neston Town Council meeting on Friday evening and senior officers will also attend a second meeting of its planning and environment committee this Friday.”
Campaigner and author Anthony Annakin-Smith told the town council: “Despite weeks of requests I’ve not obtained a shred of evidence that this scheme was given proper forethought - no business case to justify it or to show local demand.”
He urged the town council to ask the borough ‘to suspend works with immediate effect pending full consultation to agree a design that respects the natural and historic environment’.
Mr Annakin-Smith also demanded the borough council should ‘take steps to ensure this kind of thing never happens again’.
He points out that both he and Little Neston and Burton ward councillor Kay Loch (Con), the borough’s rights of way chairman, sit on Cheshire West and Chester’s local access forum and that ‘ironically, if Cllr Loch and I had sat down together months ago we’d probably have reached agreement quickly’.
The meeting is at Neston Town Hall on Friday, January 17 at 6pm.