Government minister, Eric Pickles, has at long last made public his decision on the outcome of the Public Inquiry into the Appeal by two town secondary schools to move to a greenbelt farmland site in Thorley. He has said NO, thereby supporting the recommendation of the Inspector, who from evidence put before him found that the Appellants’ arguments on special educational need did not match up to the severity of harm that would result for the openness of Thorley greenbelt and the rural characteristics of Thorley Footpath 4 that is a section of the Bishop’s Stortford leg of the Hertfordshire Way.
Representing Thorley parish, councillor Sylvia McDonald attended the 4-week long Public Inquiry as a key participating party and called as witness Bert Richardson of Friends of Hertfordshire Way to support her case. Bert was a real gem in the proceedings, pointing out the inaccuracies in the evidence of the Appellants’ landscape expert, and saying it ‘straight’ as the Yorkshireman he is proud to be. Both were ‘mentioned in dispatches’ as it were. The Inspector’s Report states that their “evidence provided a decisive answer to the [Appelllants’] contention that the harm which would be caused to the Hertfordshire Way may be regarded as acceptable”. It further states that “the loss of this treasured local amenity is a matter which counts against the proposals and one which should be given very significant weight.”
A 9-day survey that Sylvia McDonald had conducted three years earlier as Footpath Association chairman was important evidence showing how widely popular is Footpath 4 and how significant it is within the Thorley ROW network. The message here is that we must not give up on the work of ROW preservation that the early Footpath Association devotees such as Gordon Hands, Charles Watson and others thankfully began.