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Shaws Path - let's get this sorted

Tuesday 25th February 2020

Shaws Path - let's get this sorted

The HWA recently met with councillors to discuss the ongoing muddle of Shaws Path, a very useful and much-used shortcut from the Library to the High Street.

The problem
For years now it has been all but impossible to get any maintenance done on Shaws Path. The path surface is broken up and difficult for the elderly or those in wheelchairs to navigate.

When the lighting doesn’t work, people returning home from the station are suddenly plunged into pitch darkness as they turn the corner. There’s a problematic tree (an overgrown blow-in) that’s growing on the boundary causing loss of light to the nearby flats, and possibly gas mains damage.

The HWA, and local residents, repeatedly bring these issues to the council’s attention and sometimes get something done. But action is only ever taken after the HWA and some poor council officer have gone nine rounds with each other, wasting a ridiculous amount of time and energy – just to fix a streetlight!!

The problem is in the history…

Background
Shaws Path was formed in the 1970s when the then-new Library and Village Hall were in development. Commuters, school children and other residents had long used Jubilee Close as a short-cut to and from the High Street and the station, and there was a risk that this would be closed off as a result of establishing boundaries to the new development. At the time. all the land concerned was owned by the council and Charlotte Shaw, renowned local councillor and champion of local residents, successfully argued for a proper footpath around the perimeter of Jubilee Close. It was fenced off, signage and lighting were installed and ever since it’s been a convenient and well-used route.

The problems started with the transfer of the council’s housing stock to Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) in the year 2000. The path was accidentally transferred to RHP along with the Jubilee Close housing estate. The path is still greatly valued by the general public, but RHP don’t maintain it – well, why should they? The council don’t maintain it because officially they no longer own it!

The way forward?
The HWA recently had a meeting with local councillors to lay the foundation for a “summit meeting” between RHP and the council’s senior people to get the matter sorted out once and for all. The ownership (and therefore the responsiblity for) Shaws Path needs to be established and, if necessary, transferred to the council. It’s not necessarily very complex but it just needs some political will from both parties to get it cleared up so that everyone involved can stop wasting so much time over the issue.

Our preliminary meeting with the councillors was very productive and Cllr Jim Millard has taken the lead on this. We hope that the “summit meeting” between LBRuT and RHP officials, with councillors and HWA to represent the local community can take place soon.

We believe that this muddle may be replicated in a number of places throughout the Borough. When all the council housing properties were transferred to RHP all at the same time in 2000, a huge amount of conveyancing work was carried out very quickly, and it is highly likely that other small-scale localised problems like this have been caused. Who knows how much council officer time is being wasted, and local residents’ frustration increased, as time after time the question is raised: “how many people does it take to change a light-bulb?”.

Let’s get this sorted.

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