Bridge of sighs as way forward is sought for footpath impasse

A POPULAR but closed Dobcross footpath is a step closer to being re-opened.

But key obstacles are still blocking the route to a positive conclusion according to Saddleworth North councillor Garth Harkness.

Footbridge across the River Tame closed since 2015

The footbridge across the River Tame, near Newbank Garden Centre, has been shut since early 2015.

It is not, however, an officially designated public right of way and the bridge is owned by the Garden Centre.

Campaigners, including the Ramblers’ Association, have actively sought to have the route between the Woolpack field and Garden Centre deemed a Public Right of Way.

The footpath closure has now been raised again, this time by Cllr Harkness, at the July meeting of Oldham Council.

He said: “Residents would very much like to see it re-opened.

“I am aware it is the responsibility of Newbank Garden Centre who bought the land from the Council in 2001 at an auction sale.

“My understanding is it was closed because the bridge decking is in a poor condition and had flood damage.

“I know the path is not a definitive right of way. However, there has been a path at this location for over 21 years.

“I understand there can be objection to the closure under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, Section 53 and would appreciate assistance in using this or other means to help get this footpath back in use.”

Cllr Harkness told the Independent the Council is now considering a definitive map modification order to which the Dobcross footpath may be added.

A report would then be sent to the Traffic Regulation Orders’ Panel to ultimately decide.

He added: “The unsafe bridge repair rests with the garden centre and this is their responsibility and has slowed the process down.

“At least, however, they are actually looking at the problem properly now at long last, though it is unclear how long a conclusion will take. We will have to keep pushing.”

The Independent contacted Newbank Garden Centre head office but was unable to get a comment.

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