Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Alley Gaters

I like alleyways. Albeit not after the hours of darkness. There is something strangely liberating about scurrying through these little pedestrian short-cuts away from the thundering (or grinding) traffic.

Yet increasingly we are seeing alleyways closed off. The problem is that many of these passages are not, as is commonly assumed, public footpaths but are privately owned pieces of land belonging to the surrounding residential properties to which they provide rear or side access.

The increasingly common practice of 'alley gating' is touted as an effective measure to prevent fly-tipping and reduce burglaries and incidents of anti-social behaviour and as such is supported (and in many cases subsidised) by local councils.

If planning permission is granted by Merton Council the alleyway which runs between Trafalgar Avenue and Garth Road in Worcester Park (a popular short cut especially for those accessing the 293 bus stop) will shortly be gated off.

I would be quite surprised if there is a particular problem with anti-social behaviour here. The passageway is right at the end of 'Pigs Alley'- a secluded public footpath running from Trafalgar Avenue, past The Hamptons development and through to Green Lane - which is surely much more of a magnet for potential anti-social behaviour than this innocuous looking alleyway.

Yet as we are dealing with privately-owned lane, there is little that can be done to prevent such alleys from being gated off. Which is good news for those who share ownership of this little strip of land but bad news for those who prefer two legs to four wheels.

Bring on the alley gaters!

2 COMMENTS (Add Yours Now!):

Anonymous said...

This is a worrying development that has already been occuring elsewhere, and should be resisted in the interests of accessibility and permeability and encoyuraging non-car transport. Anti-social behaviour is subjective and should not be used as an excuse to inhibit freedom of movement for the law abiding majority. Indeed having more movement in an area provides more 'eyes' to deter or report serious criminal behaviour. For example, a safe was recently stolen from Superdrug in Sutton by robbers who used a closed off alleyway to break through a wall into the building at night. If the alleyway had been open passers by may have disturbed them and the police may have been able to catch them.

Anonymous said...

The only anti-social behaviour down this alleyway has been that of the residents of the nearby properties putting up aggressive signs.

There has been no graffiti, no dog mess and no loitering. As I used to use the alley every day (and sometimes in the dark), I'm sure the residents had not already got rid of the mess, for example.

I - a regular user of the 293 to Epsom - was tempted to tear one of the residents' signs down but it was too high. It was of the "wot r u doing here? U've been warned. Get off or els" nature. There was another one warning of dangerous dogs (probably the residents' dogs doing the shitting). My safety was being compromised and I complained at the time to Merton, when I was told the land was owned by the residents but that it was a right of way for the public.

Gating off this alley will compromise people's safety - cops on foot would have to go all the way down Trafalgar Road, on to London Road and back again. Schoolchildren use this short-cut. They would have to walk the long way round. London Road is probably more dangerous than a short alleyway with not much scope for hanging around. Any sex act would be on full display. And surely some big burly man is capable of telling off teenagers? I told a teenager trespassing on my land (using it as somewhere to mess around with his bike) to get off.

If the alleyway isn't a public footpath (I maintain it is a public footpath) then why did the residents not apply to have it gated off altogether? Instead they have applied for gates with keys.

I know what will happen. Some moustached, tattoed middle-ager will use it as a parking bay for his ageing Astra/equivalent. But when he wants to get to the Nelson pub, he'll use the keys - not walk from Garth Road to London Road (yes, not much further, I know).

Many public footpaths have been blocked off over the years, including ones from Pigs Alley to Garth Road via the industrial estate.

This Garth Road/Trafalgar Avenue alleyway certainly used to be a public footpath, according to maps I have seen. It seems it was bought by residents but under law they have to keep a public right of way (presumably one wide enough for a wheelchair) and are liable for any accidents (I believe someone has issued some sort of claim - and not me before you get excited).

Also, in the early 90s, public footpaths were given numbers. Those with numbers cannot be bought or blocked off under any circumstances.

I have written to the MPs for Merton and Sutton about this alleyway, Tory councillors and the Mayor of London, though appreciate they may have more pressing issues on their hands.

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