Black Path concerns ignored

Pictured is the end of the old railwat footpath, towards Middlemore, Daventry
Pictured is the end of the old railwat footpath, towards Middlemore, Daventry

Police have referred a planning decision to the county’s police and crime commissioner after their opposition to extend a dangerous footpath went unheeded.

District sergeant Sam Dobbs and Sharon Henley – a crime prevention design advisor for the police – were both at a DDC planning meeting last Wednesday to talk about plans to extend Daventry’s railway footpath. The Black Path, as it is known, attracts crime including an attempted abduction.

The plan is to extend the path from its current end just north of the Drayton Way ring road, all the way to the edge of Middlemore, providing a tarmac cycle/foot path with street lights all the way into the town centre.

However, the representatives of Northamptonshire Police pointed out the path would not be overlooked by houses or other areas busy with people, and the vegetation would lead to light and dark pools at night – issues that run against current policies and guidelines. However, Northamptonshire County Council will only adopt cycleways from DDC and pay to maintain them if they are built to a standard that includes street lights.

Ms Henley told the meeting: “We seem to be in this position because of a hasty desire to spend planning gain monies to provide a cycleway, without understanding the wider issues.”

The committee was told the existing path attracts crime including robbery, indecent exposure, attempted abduction, someone being shot in the head with an airgun, being used as a route for stolen motorbikes, drug use, and it being used as an escape route by burglars.

After the meeting Sgt Dobbs said: “We police are in a changing environment with reducing budgets, and I’m sad to say DDC need to catch up with that because we need to design crime out, not in, and that is the message we were trying to get across.

“We suggested site meetings, but council officers judged these as unnecessary, and despite knowing our grave concerns, we found out only by accident that is application was to be heard.

“It had previously been passed ‘subject to police consultation’ even though it flies in the face of at least four accepted guidelines on the planning of cycleways. Between us we have to do better than this as we try to design out crime.

“We urgently need a debate on the safety of the Black Path and how the council should spend its money on this public facility. The debate cannot be condensed into a newspaper quote, or three minutes at a planning meeting.

“We don’t want an illusion created that this is a safer route than it is, but will have to channel our concerns in a different direction to make them better understood.

“For that reason, we have referred our frustrations and concerns to the police commissioner.”