Quality Court pathway in Margate will reopen on or before July 30 following a mutual agreement between Thanet council and The Old Cottage Pub owner David Gorton.
The legal document was signed by both parties at Margate Magistrates’ Court on May 27.
The footpath, which links the Market Street car park to the High Street and runs alongside The Old Cottage pub, has been closed for some six years and has been the focus of contention during that time.
Mr Gorton says it was necessary for him to shut the route to carry out repair works after the path began to collapse into his pub cellar below. But wrangles with the council and a dispute with Margate Town Team and some of the town’s traders followed with tensions rising over the closure.
Legal proceedings over the debacle came before magistrates after Thanet council filed an application alleging that Mr Gorton had been obstructing the public highway.
Mr Gorton says the closure came after full consultation with the appropriate authorities and has had summonses issued to council staff, including top tier members, for his case at the court.
There are further issues due to the fact there is no recorded ownership for the pathway. Although Thanet council has said the path is a public right of way because it has been in use for more than 20 years the authority admits it is not officially designated as such despite an application being submitted in 2019.
Kent County Council also says the path is not currently recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement as a Public Right of Way. The path is not owned by Mr Gorton nor Thanet or Kent councils.
Some traders say the closure cuts footfall to the town and so impacts on businesses. There has been anger at the length of time it has been shut.
Mr Gorton says he has spent in excess of £143,000 and has taken on the repair work himself to ensure the path is safe to use, saying district and county councils declined to take responsibility.
The court agreement states Mr Gorton can resume work ‘as soon as possible’ although any works without planning permission would be at his own risk. A ‘formal’ council ‘requirement’ issued last month to halt works was changed to ‘advice’ in the legal document and Thanet council was due to confirm by yesterday (June 3) whether the new application can include ‘setts’ being laid up to the boundary of Market Street car park but with no claim of ownership to council land.
The agreement also says a new planning application will be made for the surface treatment, which the council must progress within the statutory timescale, and the footpath will re-open on or before July 30.
A statement from Thanet council says: “Mutual undertakings were given by the parties that allowed for the completion of the work, subject to a further planning application being made and approved in accordance with planning legislation.
“The substantive issue, as to the determination of the designation of the alleyway as a public right of way in accordance with the Highways Act, will be determined by the court at the adjourned hearing in November.”
Mr Gorton said he was in agreement with the above statement made by the council.
The case will return to court on November 11 and 15 when the public right of way issue will be determined.