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Public footpath will open later

PUBLISHED: 16:41 24 October 2008 | UPDATED: 12:05 03 July 2010

Dominic Bareham

A POPULAR public footpath has been saved from closing early on dark winter evenings after more than 100 residents signed a petition calling for it to stay open.

A POPULAR public footpath has been saved from closing early on dark winter evenings after more than 100 residents signed a petition calling for it to stay open.

Fears had been raised schoolchildren and residents would have to walk longer distances if police plans to close the path through St Nicholas' Church in Great Yarmouth at 4.30pm during the winter months were given the go ahead.

But the path linking East Road and St Nicholas Road will now stay open until 7pm, after councillors attending a meeting of the borough council's cabinet agreed to extend the opening hours.

Until earlier this year, the path had been open 24 hours a day, with the 7pm closing time during the summer months following three assaults and vandalism to memorials and graves in the churchyard.

However, the 7pm closing time was to have changed to 4.30pm when the clocks go back this weekend.

Labour leader Mick Castle had previously said the gate-locking decision was “ill thought” and said the idea of keeping undesirables out of the churchyard overnight was misplaced because the main gates to the churchyard remain open overnight.

He said: “The path is not just common or garden path through a cemetery, it is a long standing public right of way used by local people going about their business. It has street lamps precisely because it is a path used both day and night.”

A recent meeting between the borough council's bereavement services and police revealed no further assaults had been reported since the closure and vandalism had also been reduced.

Mr Castle revealed during a site meeting with police at 5pm a week ago more than 200 people used the footpath, demonstrating the popularity of the right of way.

Cllr Castle has had discussions with the church, which owns the section running through the churchyard, and Sainsbury's, which owns the gates at the store end of the path, about the situation. He was confident the church would agree to close at the later time.

He said: “I was quite pleased with the result and we really got everything we asked for. I think the police and council went part of the way towards what the residents were looking for.”

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