Public paid pounds 3m for private path

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The Independent Online
A PROPERTY firm given pounds 3m of taxpayers' money to build a public footpath as part of a luxury housing estate has blocked the path and sold the flats with "private walkway".

Cosalt, one of Britain's leading developers, was awarded the money as part of its plans to build two blocks of riverside flats in North Shields, Tyne and Wear. The walkway was required by law but all the flats have now been sold and the path remains barred.

It is one of a string of cases where developers have flouted obligations to build public rights of way into their buildings. The Ramblers' Association has accused developers and local councils of acting in "complete contempt" of the law.

In North Shields' case, Cosalt received pounds 3m from the Tyne & Wear Development Corporation (TWDC) to build the public walkway by the river. The firm had applied for the grant when it decided to build luxury riverside apartments. Having gained it, Cosalt was covenanted to create the half-mile public walkway, which was to be part of a long-distance path from Newcastle to Tynemouth and formed part of TWDC's plans for regeneration in the area.

Once the first block and walkway were completed, however, the path was gated and padlocked. When local walking campaigners protested, they were told that the walkway would be opened to the public once the second block was finished. The flats' owners are opposed to the walkway being opened, arguing it would lower the value of their properties.

The entire project is now completed, but the footpath remains barred to the public and the apartments have been advertised and sold as having a "private walkway". TWDC was wound up last year, no money has ever been recovered from Cosalt and no action has been taken against the company.

Eric Cooley has campaigned for the walkway to be opened since the dispute began. He said: "It really gets my goat that pounds 3m has gone into a developer's pocket for something they haven't done. The local council is sitting on the fence but they have an obligation to insist that the walkway is opened."

A spokesman for Cosalt said opening the walkway would provide easy access for thieves, and anglers had been urinating along the waterfront. "I've no idea whether Cosalt was covenanted," Brian Clark, deputy company secretary, said. "The original idea for a walkway didn't happen. People can get permission to walk down there but it's only 70 yards and ends in a brick wall."

David Beskine, of the Ramblers' Association, said: "The council should proceed immediately with an enforcement action."