When Hexagon Housing Association applied to close the rights of way for cyclists, mobility scooters and pedestrians between Old Dover and Charlton Roads, the application was rejected by the Council in 2004 following objections by users and residents of Schofield Walk and elsewhere in the locality. The paths form what the Council described as a ‘pivotal’ part of the London Cycle network, which is currently being upgraded in preparation for the Olympics. But in 2007 Hexagon defied the Council’s decision by building walls to block the rights of way. Signs directed cyclists, including pupils of Invicta Primary School, and other users to go round the Standard gyratory instead. However some local residents felt the closure had reduced crime on the estates and wanted the rights of way to be extinguished.
Letters to Westcombe News showed that opinions were sharply divided over the issue and the Westcombe Society, which had supported the Council's decision in 2004 (which had enjoyed wide support) decided it would not take sides on such a divisive issue. Instead, it asked the Police to monitor any changes in antisocial behaviour on the estates and urged the Council to conduct a survey, as required by law, to see if a compromise could be reached.
The results of the survey will be discussed by the Council on Wednesday 8th April. The Police have reported that the walls have not reduced reported crime, and the Council survey confirmed that opinions were indeed sharply divided. No alternative route could be found that was as safe or convenient and met the legal requirements. Such an alternative route would also have to be approved by Transport for London, which has objected to the current obstruction.
The Council will have to decide whether to require the removal of the walls or to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for a public enquiry – which seems unlikely to be able to come to a different conclusion. The paths are one of a number of items to be discussed at the meeting, which is open to the public. It starts at 18.30 in the Town Hall, Woolwich.