Battle lines drawn over footpath closure

Laura Bagshaw BATTLE lines are being drawn over the closure of a footpath in a Great Yarmouth churchyard. Labour leader Mick Castle is fighting to overturn a decision taken by the borough council earlier in the year which forced overnight closures to a footpath in St Nicholas Churchyard.

Laura Bagshaw

BATTLE lines are being drawn over the closure of a footpath in a Great Yarmouth churchyard.

Labour leader Mick Castle is fighting to overturn a decision taken by the borough council earlier in the year that forced overnight closures to a footpath in St Nicholas's Churchyard.

After vandalism in May, the council decided to close gates leading to the churchyard over-night from Sainsbury's, Town Wall Road and Factory Road instead of leaving them open all night.

Mr Castle said local people felt strongly about the overnight closures and he would organise a petition to try to reverse the decision if forced to do so.

He said: "It was something of a knee-jerk reaction to some vandalism in the graveyard and was a well-meaning if ineffective gesture. What it has done is prevent ordinary law-abiding people from getting to and fro without a long detour."

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Mr Castle said that, as ward councillor, he was not consulted about the pathway closure, nor were local residents.

He thought it didn't make sense for the council to close three entrances to the churchyard when a fourth entrance, at the front of St Nicholas's Church, remained open at night.

"The church gates remain open all hours for people who want to get up to no good, somewhat defeating the purpose of any curfew," he said.

In May, the Mercury reported that more than £100,000 of damage had been caused to memorials and graves in the churchyard and cemeteries by vandals and that people had been assaulted in the churchyard. Gates at the cemeteries were already locked overnight, but the council was prompted to close churchyard gates overnight to deter vandals.

Mr Castle added: "This is an important right-of-way for local people, and when the clocks

go back it will be closed

around 4.30pm and will not open until 7.30am the next day. Imagine: if you worked at Sainsbury's and the gates are locked after 4.30pm, you would have to walk all the way to Northgate Street to cut through."

Simon Mutten, borough environmental services manager, said a meeting would be held today about the cemeteries and churchyard between represen-tatives of the council's ground staff and bereavement services and police. He said the council had closed the gates after seeking advice from police about preventing crime in the area.

"This meeting may or may not result in the opening of the footpath. The key reason for the closure is public safety, and I hope they will understand that," he added.