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Gating Alleys

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  • Gating Alleys

    Hi everyone.

    This is my first post and although my story is not specifically about a NFH, I thought it might be usefull to others embarking on a similar course of action.

    We are a large group of residents living in blocks of 1930's terraced properties with private access roads ( alleys) to the side and rear of our properties. In the 1950's the Local Authority built a housing estate to the rear of our access roads and left a dirt track ( it was paved about 14 years ago) between two of the new houses which exited on to our alleys. Over the years this dirt track came into use as a shortcut ( via our private alleys) to local shops and local residents had no problem with this as it caused no problems. however as the years rolled by antisocial behaviour has escalated to an unacceptable level. Examples of this have been : drug taking and dealing, burglary, arson, graffiti, criminal damage, flytipping, stolen vehicles, mugging, drunken yobs gathering and using residents windows as target practice etc. The police urged us to gate the alleys as they consider this is the best way to deal with the problems.

    Almost three years ago we contacted the Council to see if we could proceed under the alleygating scheme and a site meeting was arranged, the Council representative recommended we first gate the path between the two houses, we collected the money and the Council carried out the necessary legal searches to establish the status of the path . We were given the go ahead , the gates were made and work started on installing them and that was as far as it got. We later learned that a local Councillor had objected ( on behalf of a local resident) and according to the Council there had been a mistake and this track " was and always had been part of the highway network" despite the fact they had no agreement with residents or landowners to allow a " highway to exit onto private land.

    We then decided we would gate the entrances to the private alleys ( as we are legally entitled to do) but the Council the told us if we went ahead they would issue an injunction to force us to reopen them.

    Months of argument passed with the Council refusing to take any measures to deal with the situation ( not their responsibility because it is private land) and in desperation we contacted the Local Government Ombudsman to make a compaint against the Council. Suddenly there was a change of heart and the Highway Managed proposed that he would, on our behalf, make an application for a "stopping up order" on the highway section.

    We were informed of the court date and we contacted our Councillors to put our evidence to them but two of them refused to even speak to us and the third refused to accept our alleys were private even though it is stated in our deeds. However we gathered all our evidence together including a large number of photographs and a petition of over 400 signiatures, we even measured the alternative route to prove that it was only slightly longer.

    All was to no avail as this evidence was not even considered and two of our Councillors were able to make " submissions" which in effect trivialised the problems we are facing and we were not allowed to question them.

    We have now been told that a claim has been lodged to have our private alleys permanently added to the highway network and we await the outcome of this new development. Meanwhile we still having to put up with the constant problems. Just a couple of weeks ago an 84 year old resident had her fence set alight and had to replace it at a cost of £1000 . The alleys are full of potholes and totally unsuitable for pedestrian traffic and on the day of the Court case an elderly lady fell and seriously injured herself, she had to be admitted to hospital but the Council now tell us we could be held liable and should take out public liability insurance!!

    I should point out that the " local resident" for whom the Councillor first objected also sat on various Council Committees so we were not surprised at their objections but what is infuriating is that their colleagues in adjacent wards are constantly popping up in local newspapers supporting residents in gating alleys and stating how effective this measure is in dealing with crime and antisocial behaviour.

    Thats politicians for you!!

  • #2
    Hi Plonk!

    Welcome to NFHiB Forums

    Why am I not surprised to hear your story - talk about bureaucracy and patheticness .

    Perhaps that particular Councillor would like to live where you do and have to put up with all the crime and anti social behaviour too? :rant:

    When you think about it, any fool can get onto a Local Council - and very frequently that's what happens .

    It's quite typical that the resident obviously has some sort of jumped up sense of self importance and knows how to cause chaos in the system having been involved with the Council at some point.

    I find it baffling that your deeds state your alleyways are yours - I don't understand why the Council is taking this stance. :blink:

    Do you think your MP could help?

    My NFH has previous involvement with Planning Committees and tried to stop my development - he couldn't. So it just goes to show that they think they know it all, but they don't. :frown:

    Take heart, it can still go your way if only you could get the bureaucrats to see sense :banghead: .

    I do hope you get a result soon - but understand it will likely be a frustrating process. :sad:

    Let us know how it goes - you'll get lots of support here in the meantime, so visit often !



    • #3
      Hi Plonk and welcome to the forum

      Thanks for posting your story. It seems so stupid that they won't allow you to guard your own property! Have you, or maybe one of the other residents, thought of putting up for council yourselves? Why should you have to rely on people who are probably only there to collect the allowances and revel in their status?! I think there might be a conflict of interest issue about a resident having a councillor object when he is at the same time sitting on committees. Did he state what his objection is? Is there some development being planned that he might have a hand in and which will rely on your alley being there?

      I find it disgusting that the council can say they will take your private alley but then say you are liable for any injuries! What are the thoughts of the police in your area about alleygating? I know in my city the police seem all for it.

      Please let us know what the eventual outcome is. I'm sure others will be very interested.

      "Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Gandhi


      • #4
        hi Plonk,

        welcome to NFHiB

        your tale sounds very confusing, sounds like a case of not knowing bottoms from elbows! :banghead:

        how can they say its not yours yet as soon as someone has an accident they want you and your neighbours to take responsibilty?!?!

        only when its suits them ey?

        I hope you get it sorted in the end, let us know how it goes!


        • #5
          Hi Plonk and welcome to the NFHiB Forums

          It all sounds very frustrating for you .

          But, good on you getting together as a group to push for this alley gating for yourselves. I hope it all works out in your favour.

          It is really annoying when anti-social behaviour causes such a nuisance that you can't live in peace and quiet. :rant:

          Good luck and keep us posted .


          • #6
            Hi Plonk, and welcome to NFHiB

            Sounds a night mare of confusion here! Good that a group of you have got together though, and are presenting a united front in a joint cause! Do keep us up-dated on your progress.




            • #7
              Hello again,

              I should have pointed out that the "local resident" that initially objected does not live in any of the properties adjoining the alleys, he lives about a quarter of a mile away and has no need to use them, when we first learned of his objection a couple of my neighbours went to see him and offered to give him a set of keys to the gate but he refused their offer, he then started ranting on about how he was on the Transport committee (and therefore knows the Highway manager) and he was anti car, pedestrians should take back control of the streets etc. He was not the least bit interested in the problems we were facing. He also represents the local Pensioners forum which he also claims has a significant influence on Council decisions and this was the group he used to justify his original objection, however when it became apparent that a large proportion of residents were pensioners and supported closing the alleys he decided to take a lower profile, we then found out that the Open Spaces Society ( I wonder who got them involved!!!) had taken up the fight to prevent the alleys being closed . I then received a telephone call from a local Councillor who told us that Open Spaces could afford the best barristers and we had no chance of winning ( he had also previously told us that the Council had bottomless pockets to fight us).

              We have had various meetings with Council officials to try and reach a solution to this problem but not once could our Councillors be bothered to attend. One of these meetings was attended by a representative from Kent Police and he gave us his full support for closing the alleys, we were promised copies of the minutes from the meeting and we eventually received them after many months of badgering the Council but we were astonished to find that our position had been totally misrepresented and the minutes were full of errors, however one glaring omission was the contribution from the Police representative. The Council's explanation for this was " we did not include Mr. ---- contribution because he is not actually a policeman".

              I later wrote to the Chief Constable to get his view and received a hand delivered reply confirming that their representative had attended our meeting and also confirming support for gating the alleys, he also added that " he was bemused as to to why the contribution from his Crime Reduction Officer was omitted from the minutes especially as he had undertaken specialist training in this role and was better qualified than police officer colleagues in these matters).

              There was also an incident where a van was stolen and dumped in our alleys on Christmas Eve, a number of residents telephoned the Council to get it removed and were told " not our responsibility as it is on private land", two days later it was set alight and the Fire Brigade were called but the Council still refused to remove it, what they didn't realise was that it was blocking public access to our private alleys. On the first working day after the Christmas holiday the Council turned up and removed the van, I contacted them to find out why they had now decided to remove it and was told it was because it was blocking a public right of way, I pointed out that the van was parked on private land and it was not an established public right of way, they would not disclose who had got it moved ( data protection act) but we had our suspicions and these were confirmed when the " local resident" boasted that he had made a "couple of telephone calls". He obviously has a lot of influence in certain quarters.

              We did contact our MP at a early stage and he supported closing the alleys, he even wrote to the Council on our behalf but when it became apparent that Councillors were objecting (same political party) his support drained away.

              We now have to wait and see if the Highway manager decides to press ahead with the claim on our alleys, I understand that if he does so and we object then it could go to a Public inquiry but at least we will be able to present our evidence to support our case.

              We thought we were being good neighbours by allowing the public to use the alleys as a shortcut and there were signs in the alleys clearly stating they were private (now torn down by vandals) but it seems anyone can claim right of way over private land after an uninterrupted period of use so be warned as no one bothered to tell us until it was too late.

              You may be interested to know that there used to be another private alley leading to the rear of our properties ( shown on our deeds) but the resident who lived next to it got fed up with the constant problems and applied to the Council to close it, there were objections in that case too but permission was granted and it was closed. Perhaps I should mention that the resident in that case (now deceased) was a local Councillor.

              I will keep you posted on developments but we may have a long wait.


              • #8

                This is ludicrous! :banghead:

                I really hope you can get the police to put some weight behind your case - how about the MP?

                I wish you all the best - I really hope you can win this fight.

                I have a feeling you are dealing with some very stubborn, selfish mules and it might go all the way to a Public Inquiry :sad: .

                For goodness' sake!



                • #9
                  Hi Plonk (love your name )

                  I'm not surprised that the police are on your side, as I said earlier the police are very supportive of people who want alley gates in areas of this city and the council are also all for it.

                  Have you thought of trying to get the newspapers interested? Or local radio and television? Maybe have some sort of demonstration and invite them along. Or have you thought of going to the Local Government Ombudsman?

                  I'm sure we all look forward to hearing how things progress, good luck

                  "Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Gandhi


                  • #10
                    Hi Mistyeyedreamer (thats a nice name too )

                    Our Council were in favour too until certain minority pressure groups started opposing every application for gates in the area effectively creating chaos, we have now found out that no further applications will be processed if the local Councillor objects ( so that is democracy is it?).

                    We may go to the local newspaper but we did try that once before and they just ran a story about the Council failing to reimburse residents for their contributions to the original gates ( a resident happened to mention we had been waiting 18 months for a refund) and totally ignored everything we had told them about the crime and vandalism, needless to say this was seen as residents having a cheap dig at the Council and did us no favours at all.

                    The problem with going to the Ombudsman is that even if he decides that the Council are guilty of maladministration I really can't see that changing the situation we now find ourselves in. The Court has declared that the short footpath leading onto our land cannot legally be stopped up so it looks as though we will have to push for our legal right to close the private sections ( effectively making the short footpath redundant as no one will be able to reach it) but if we close them ourselves we will be issued with an injunction to reopen them :banghead: .It seems that our only option is to ensure this goes all the way to a public inquiry but what a waste of time and money over an alley that was never intended for public use.

                    Residents have become sick and tired of clearing dumped rubbish from the alleys, the Council will not prosecute people who flytip on private land , we have to take it to the tip ourselves because the Council refuse to help us. Even dog owners who would not let their animals mess on a public footpath have no problem allowing them to use the alleys as a toilet, when confronted you get a reply like " whats your problem it's only a f----ing alley". :angry: