Revamp work on path ‘not done legally’

Protesters walk through Wickham last month against the changes made to the Meon Valley Trail ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (150749-178)

Protesters walk through Wickham last month against the changes made to the Meon Valley Trail ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (150749-178)

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Artists impression of the Solent Freedom Tunnel portal at Whippingham, IOW. 
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The Able Connections proposal is to create a new North-South axis through the centre of the Solent region by constructing a tunnel from the M27 east of junction 9 to the Whippingham roundabout on the Isle of Wight, with an additional access intersection 'cut and cover' portal near the mainland coast between Browndown and Meon.  (options being discussed). The scheme brings a range of benefits to the region, including a step change in the connectivity of the Solents emerging mass transit public transport network, reduced highway congestion, reduced HGVs in city centres, new habitat for wildlife and public amenity, agglomeration benefits for industries in the Aerospace, Marine Defence and Composites sectors and other major employers in south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, as well as improved accessibility for tourists to the island. The scheme

Striking first look at proposed £1.2bn tunnel between Isle of Wight and M27

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A ROW has broken out over whether works to upgrade a country trail were legal or not.

Protestors say that the Meon Valley trail, which runs along an old railway track from West Meon to Wickham, has been ruined by the improvements carried out by Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.

Now barrister Wayne Beglan at Cornerstone has advised them that the works ‘were not permitted development as previously stated and definitely required planning permission.’

This, campaigners say, opens the way for a judicial review unless an agreement can be reached.

They met representatives of from the council and the South Downs National Park Authority in an effort to reach a suitable compromise on surface and other issues. The group has asked for a suitable dual-user surface so all user groups can enjoy the bridleway safely.

Martin Montague, from the Save Our Bridleway group, said: ‘If they had used some of the money on consultation a lot of very unpopular mistakes could have been avoided.

‘The fact that SDNP is a planning authority yet fails to obtain permission for its own work makes a mockery of the system.’

The work, which cost around £380,000, is close to completion and has seen the track widened and resurfaced with a type of shingle called scalpings, which has upset horse riders and dog walkers who say the stones injure their animals’ feet.

And it has also upset cyclists, who say it is now too bumpy to ride on, and walkers, who say it is more difficult to walk on.

However, the council said it has now made the trail more accessible to all users, including disabled people.

A protest march held last month in Wickham attracted scores of upset residents, who wanted to voice their disapproval.

Donations of nearly £3,000 were collected from the march, which Save our Bridleway used to consult Mr Beglan.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: ‘We can confirm that we met with representatives from the campaign group on June 2 and we will be responding in due course.’

A spokesperson for the South Downs National Park Authority said: ‘As the planning authority we consider any new legal opinion on development and respond accordingly, as we will with the one commissioned by this group.’

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