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VIDEO: Frustration as shared-use signs removed from Harrogate footpath

Published at 11:19am 14th July 2016. (Updated at 6:25pm 14th July 2016)

Cyclists in Harrogate have been told they can no longer use a popular woodland footpath.

In recent days, Harrogate Borough Council workers have taken down signs in the Pinewoods encouraging users of the footpath to 'share with care'.

It followed complaints that they were both unlawful and hadn't been authorised.

But the Pinewoods Conservation Group, which erected the signs in March, has warned that preventing cyclists from using the path will be impossible to enforce.

Group chair Neil Hind said: "We are surprised and disappointed by the council's quick action here before being able to meet with them to discuss their concerns.

"The initial feedback from Pinewoods members and local residents was that they wanted the signs to stay and felt they have improved behaviours of users on the path.

"We are now back to having no signs and no enforcement of any rules."

The group says it sent the signs to the council for approval over a year ago, but never received any feedback, so decided to go ahead with installing them.

It says its aim was to encourage more people to use the woods, which lead to the Valley Gardens.

The route is currently used by cyclists looking for a shortcut out of town and an alternative to the busy Otley Road, the scene of a number of accidents involving cyclists in recent years.

But concerns have been raised about the suitability of the footpath for cycling and the safety of pedestrians.

Local resident Paddy Wray wrote to the council sharing his concerns about the signs.

He highlighted Section 329(1) of the Highways Act 1980 where a footpath means "a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot only".

He told Stray FM: "Quite clearly, not only were the signs unlawful, their erection was an offence and they were suggesting that the public should carry out unlawful acts.

"Harrogate Borough Council, as the landowner had no option but to require the Pinewoods Conservation Group to remove these unauthorised and unlawful signs."

Pinewoods

One of the signs which have now been removed

Councillor Michael Harrison, Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling, said: "We are extremely grateful for the work undertaken by the Pinewoods Conservation Group to protect our natural environment.

"Whilst we appreciate the group acted with the best of intentions in erecting the signage encouraging efforts to 'share with care', in this instance the signage was not suitable.

"The paths in question, which run through the Pinewoods and Valley Gardens, are designated as footpaths, and cycling and horse riding are not permitted on footpaths.

"Unfortunately, the signage suggested these activities were permitted, and this could lead to confusion.

"Although we were approached for consent, we gave no consent for the erection of the signs. As part of discussions with the group, they were asked to remove the signs, however some of them remained in place, so we made the decision to remove them ourselves.

"We are keen for people to visit the Pinewoods and Valley Gardens, however we must ensure that those people using the footpaths can do so safely and in compliance with their designated use."