A ROW has broken out after a footpath linking a shopping centre to a recreation ground was blocked off.
The path, which runs alongside the new Cineworld multiplex at Whiteley Shopping Centre, was closed by Whiteley Town Council.
It put up a metal fence to stop people cutting through to Meadowside Recreation Ground, which it owns.
The path had to be built as part of the planning permission granted to British Land to build the cinema complex, which opened last week, from Winchester City Council.
The town council objected after anti-social behaviour was reported in 2012 when people were using the point as an unofficial cut-through while the centre was being built.
Mike Evans, town council chairman, said that residents in the nearby Bellway development had complained about the shortcut.
Cllr Evans said: ‘We were contacted by officers from Hampshire Constabulary about some very serious anti-social behaviour affecting a number of residents and one family in particular who to this day remain traumatised by what happened.’
He would not go into detail about the behaviour.
Winchester City Councillors Sam Newman-McKie and Vivian Achwal said they want to see the path open to support pedestrian access and promote walking.
Cllr Newman-McKie said: ‘I cannot understand why Whiteley Town Council would block a safe walking route through to the new cinema and restaurants.
‘The path has been built and it is ridiculous to block it off.
‘The town council is not acting in the best interests of our residents.’
Whiteley residents are divided over the path.
One resident of Camellia Way, who did not want to be named for fear of more anti-social behaviour, said: ‘They said they would keep it shut to stop people coming out and causing trouble.
‘It did not used to be there, so I’m in favour of keeping it shut.’
Another Whiteley resident Morene Pinder said she felt the council should be promoting walking, and that having the path open would encourage people to visit the Whiteley Church open space, which is next to the path.
She said: ‘It is not convenient having that blocked off. It is a waste of time and money.’
Cllr Evans remained firm.
‘We had no alternative,’ he said.
‘The access will remain closed and the town council will be planting shrubs in front of it.’