A planning inspector has thrown out an appeal against three public rights of way across two disputed sites in a Northumberland seaside village.
In the spring of 2010, two applications were made to the county council to register public footpaths in the vicinity of White Rock and adjacent to Harbour Road in Beadnell.
Two further applications were made for amended routes in October 2010.
Around the same time, applications were made to register the two sites, White Rock and the Haven, or the Anchorage, as village greens.
The sites have been the focus of applications for housing development by Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society, which claims the homes will provide money to protect and pay for the upkeep of the harbour in perpetuity.
But their plans have been fought vehemently by the Save Beadnell Association, who submitted the applications for village greens and rights of way.
Following a lengthy and in-depth public inquiry in November 2011, both village green applications were turned down.
But in March 2011, Northumberland County Council’s rights of way committee made an order on the rights of way, which sought to add footpaths 33, 34 and 35 to the definitive map.
Footpaths 34 and 35 provide additional links to number 33, which begins and ends on Harbour Road.
The Beadnell Harbour Fishermen’s Society appealed against the order and another public inquiry was held, in December last year.
Secretary John Wall’s submission was that the society was unaware of any significant use of the claimed footpaths by the public.
But planning inspector Michael Lowe wrote in his report: ‘In my view, the evidence from the supporters for the order and those for the objector are difficult to reconcile at first glance.
‘However, it is clear to me that the evidence does indicate that the public used the claimed routes on a regular and frequent basis throughout the 20-year period.
‘The main use was at weekends and in the evenings and particularly through the summer months. Such a frequency and time of use is that which would be expected for a village in which a substantial number of properties are occupied as second homes or visitor accommodation.’
A route can be claimed as a public footpath if it has been ‘enjoyed by the public as of right (without force, secrecy or permission) and without interruption for a full period of 20 years’.