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War of words over footpath access
A LEGAL battle between Didcot Town Football Club and Didcot Town Council has been launched over a footpath.
The fight over access to a path from Ladygrove Park to Willowbrook Leisure Centre has come to a head in the past few weeks.
The council argues the path has been illegally blocked, barring the access of Ladygrove residents to the centre since May 2011.
The land is owned by the football club which locks the gates at both ends of the path. But the council says a 2002 lease from 1998 for 99 years includes the right to use the path on the club’s land from the centre to the town council’s land at Ladygrove Park near the Ladygrove Loop.
Town Council leader Margaret Davies said: “Residents just cannot understand why out of the blue the club decided to lock the gates to the path which has been open for nine years.
“It makes it very difficult for people who use the park or the tennis courts who may want to use the toilets of facilities at the leisure centre.
“We have decided to continue with the legal process for now. We are hoping for a neighbourly resolution but in the meantime we are taking legal action for the benefit of residents.”
A “letter before legal action” was sent to the club on behalf of the council by Didcot-based solicitors Slade Legal in October.
It said: “You should know at the outset that we have advised our clients they have legitimate grounds for taking legal action against you.”
A reply by member of DTFC’s executive committee, Justin Lambourne, said: “I am astonished by the actions of Didcot Town Council in this matter.
“The agreement stated that the council would be wholly responsible for the opening and closing of the gates to this land, this is a fundamental principle to this agreement.
“Didcot town council failed continuously to abide by this requirement or prevent the misuse of the facility.”
The letter states dogs fouled on their pitches, glass and litter were left on their land, more than £2,000 of damage was caused by vandals, motorcycles were driven onto the pitch and drug syringes were found by the leisure centre.
The dispute could go to court if it is not settled in a month.
Cllr Davies said they have offered to meet with the club next week to find a solution, but if none is found councillors may decide to launch court proceedings at Didcot Town Council’s full meeting on January 13.
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