PARISH councillors are to be asked to consider applying to register a well-used footpath, which has been closed off, as a public right of way.

The path connects Bexton Lane with the public rights of way network, but access has been closed by a locked gate installed at the entrance to the railway bridge following bridge works by Network Rail.

Knutsford residents who used the path contacted Knutsford Town Council to ask it to apply to register the path as a public right of way to see the path reopened.

However the path is not within the town council’s jurisdiction, being situated just outside the town boundary in the neighbouring parish.

Town councillors said, as a result, the decision about seeking to register the path as a public right of way should be one for Plumley with Toft and Bexton Parish Council.

The environment committee agreed to contact the parish council to make it aware of the concerns by residents over the path closure and ask the council to consider the possibility of securing a formal public right of way.

The town council said it would consider supporting the parish council if it decided to seek to register the path as a right of way.

The land on which the path is situated is owned by the Crown Estate, and town clerk Adam Keppel-Green said he had spoken with the tenant farmer, who said he had always actively discouraged use of the path.

The farmer said there were previously cattle in the fields, and there was probably a gate at that time.

He said he had suffered an increasing amount of abuse, including physical threats, from path users when they had been asked not to use the path and stay out of the fields.

There had been a significant amount of crop damage from people crossing the fields, he said, and was concerned about the safety of walkers and cyclists on the land while heavy machinery was being operated.

He said more people had used the path during the recent lockdown because of the closure of Tatton Park, and there had been problems with dogs off leads and fouling.

Adam told the meeting he had spoken to the agent from The Crown Estate, and there had been an expression of interest in ‘doing something to keep the path open and avoiding a formal public right of way being registered.’

He said: “They are going to be speaking in more detail with the tenant farmer about having an established permissive path that is closed around sowing season and harvest, but for the rest of the year there would be access, and they would like to explore that further.”

Cllr Jan Nicholson said: “We should leave it to Plumley with Toft and Bexton Parish Council to make a decision on this themselves.

“I know Knutsford residents enjoy the pathway, but it is not in our jurisdiction area.”

Cllr Stewart Gardiner said: “We should not be considering going forward with a formal application at this stage when we haven’t even spoken to the neighbouring council.”